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Disease and Development in Historical Perspective


  • Daron Acemoglu

    (Massachusetts Institute of Technology,)

  • Simon Johnson

    (Massachusetts Institute of Technology,)

  • James Robinson

    (University of California, Berkeley,)


Health conditions and disease environments are important for economic outcomes. This paper argues that the main impact of disease environments on the economic development of nations is not due to the direct effect of health conditions on income, but rather because of their indirect effect via institutions. Health does affect income directly, but this can explain only a small fraction of today's differences in per capita income. In contrast, when previously isolated populations came into contact during the period of European colonial expansion, differences in disease environments had a major impact on the path of institutional development and consequently first-order consequences for economic growth. (JEL: I12, O12) Copyright (c) 2003 The European Economic Association.

Suggested Citation

  • Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James Robinson, 2003. "Disease and Development in Historical Perspective," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(2-3), pages 397-405, 04/05.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:jeurec:v:1:y:2003:i:2-3:p:397-405

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:idb:brikps:42218 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. David N. Weil, 2005. "Accounting for the Effect of Health on Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 11455, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116.
    4. Levin, Henry M, 1986. "A Benefit-Cost Analysis of Nutritional Programs for Anemia Reduction," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 1(2), pages 219-245, July.
    5. Felicia Marie Knaul & Edmundo Murrugarra & Carlos Hernández Alvarez & Rafael Cortez & William D. Savedoff & Jaime Espinosa Ferrando & Rocío Ribero Medina & Martín Valdivia & T. Paul Schultz & Jairo Nú, 2000. "Wealth from Health: Linking Social Investments to Earnings in Latin America," IDB Publications (Books), Inter-American Development Bank, number 42218 edited by William D. Savedoff & T. Paul Schultz, February.
    6. repec:idb:idbbks:321 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Peter Klenow & Andrés Rodríguez-Clare, 1997. "The Neoclassical Revival in Growth Economics: Has It Gone Too Far?," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 73-114 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development


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