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World health inequality: Convergence, divergence, and development

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  • Clark, Rob
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    Recent studies characterize the last half of the twentieth century as an era of cross-national health convergence, with some attributing welfare gains in the developing world to economic growth. In this study, I examine the extent to which welfare outcomes have actually converged and the extent to which economic development is responsible for the observed trends. Drawing from estimates covering 195 nations during the 1955-2005 period, I find that life expectancy averages converged during this time, but that infant mortality rates continuously diverged. I develop a narrative that implicates economic development in these contrasting trends, suggesting that health outcomes follow a "welfare Kuznets curve." Among poor countries, economic development improves life expectancy more than it reduces infant mortality, whereas the situation is reversed among wealthier nations. In this way, development has contributed to both convergence in life expectancy and divergence in infant mortality. Drawing from 674 observations across 163 countries during the 1980-2005 period, I find that the positive effect of GDP PC on life expectancy attenuates at higher levels of development, while the negative effect of GDP PC on infant mortality grows stronger.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277-9536(10)00852-X
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 72 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 4 (February)
    Pages: 617-624

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:72:y:2011:i:4:p:617-624
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    1. Lant Pritchett & Lawrence H. Summers, 1996. "Wealthier is Healthier," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(4), pages 841-868.
    2. Chris Wilson, 2001. "On the Scale of Global Demographic Convergence 1950-2000," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 27(1), pages 155-171.
    3. Neumayer, Eric, 2003. "Beyond income: convergence in living standards, big time," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 275-296, September.
    4. Brian Goesling & Glenn Firebaugh, 2004. "The Trend in International Health Inequality," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 30(1), pages 131-146.
    5. Eric Neumayer, 2004. "HIV/AIDS and Cross-National Convergence in Life Expectancy," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 30(4), pages 727-742.
    6. World Bank, 2010. "World Development Indicators 2010," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 4373.
    7. Babones, Salvatore J., 2008. "Income inequality and population health: Correlation and causality," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(7), pages 1614-1626, April.
    8. Ce Shen & John Williamson, 2001. "Accounting for Cross-National Differences in Infant Mortality Decline (1965–1991) among less Developed Countries: Effects of Women's Status, Economic Dependency, and State Strength," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 53(3), pages 257-288, March.
    9. Nickell, Stephen J, 1981. "Biases in Dynamic Models with Fixed Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(6), pages 1417-1426, November.
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