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Disease and Development: Evidence from the American South


  • Hoyt Bleakley

    (The University of California at San Diego,)


Hookworm and malaria, parasites that remain a significant public health threat in the tropical belt today, were endemic in the American South as late as the first half of the twentieth century. I discuss how the successful eradication of malaria and hookworm in the American South affected human-capital accumulation. I find that areas that had higher levels of (malaria or hookworm) infection prior to eradication experienced greater increases in school attendance and literacy afterwards. Moreover, I find that adults earned substantially more if they were not exposed to these diseases as children. The estimates are large relative to the subsequent convergence between the North and South in the United States, but small compared to the cross-country distribution of income. Nevertheless, the results indicate potentially large benefits of public health interventions in developing countries. (JEL: I12, J24, O10, H43) Copyright (c) 2003 The European Economic Association.

Suggested Citation

  • Hoyt Bleakley, 2003. "Disease and Development: Evidence from the American South," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(2-3), pages 376-386, 04/05.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:1:y:2003:i:2-3:p:376-386

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote & José A. Scheinkman, 1996. "Crime and Social Interactions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 507-548.
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    3. Edward L. Glaeser & Jose Scheinkman, 2000. "Non-Market Interactions," NBER Working Papers 8053, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. William A. Brock & Steven N. Durlauf, 2001. "Discrete Choice with Social Interactions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(2), pages 235-260.
    5. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2002. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 730-770, August.
    6. Lawrence F. Katz & Jeffrey R. Kling & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2001. "Moving to Opportunity in Boston: Early Results of a Randomized Mobility Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 607-654.
    7. Charles F. Manski, 1993. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(3), pages 531-542.
    8. Bruce Sacerdote, 2001. "Peer Effects with Random Assignment: Results for Dartmouth Roommates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 681-704.
    9. Rauch James E., 1993. "Productivity Gains from Geographic Concentration of Human Capital: Evidence from the Cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 380-400, November.
    10. Daron Acemoglu & Joshua Angrist, 1999. "How Large are the Social Returns to Education? Evidence from Compulsory Schooling Laws," NBER Working Papers 7444, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1988. "On the mechanics of economic development," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 3-42, July.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate


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