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Disease and Development: The Effect of Life Expectancy on Economic Growth*

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  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Simon Johnson

Abstract

We exploit the major international health improvements from the 1940s to estimate the effect of life expectancy on economic performance. We construct predicted mortality using preintervention mortality rates from various diseases and dates of global interventions. Predicted mortality has a large impact on changes in life expectancy starting in 1940 but no effect before 1940. Using predicted mortality as an instrument, we find that a 1 percent increase in life expectancy leads to a 1.7-2 percent increase in population. Life expectancy has a much smaller effect on total GDP, however. Consequently, there is no evidence that the large increase in life expectancy raised income per capita. (c) 2007 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

Suggested Citation

  • Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2007. "Disease and Development: The Effect of Life Expectancy on Economic Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 925-985, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:115:y:2007:i:6:p:925-985
    DOI: 10.1086/529000
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    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts

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