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More than One Hundred Years of Improvements in Living Standards: the Case of Colombia




This paper examines the long-term trends observed in the standard of living of the Colombian population during the past one hundred years, with special attention on health. We construct a historical index of human development for Colombia (HIHDC) for the 19th and 20th centuries by gender. We find that there were no major advances in living standards during the nineteenth century due to the stagnation of Colombia’s GDP per capita as a result of the lack of dynamism in exports. On the contrary, significant advances in all components of the HIHDC were seen in the twentieth century, especially those for women. During the first half of the century, improvements in the quality of life were mainly driven by a higher per capita income, while improvements after the 1950s were driven by greater public investment, for example, in education and health. Next, we analyze health achievements, considering health is one of the components of the HIHDC that has been less studied in the Colombian economic history literature. We construct a new dataset using statistics reported by the Colombian government, which included annual information on the main diseases and causes of mortality during the period of 1916-2014 disaggregated by territorial units. The data show that the percentage of deaths from tuberculosis, pneumonia, and gastrointestinal diseases decreased significantly throughout the century. On the contrary, deaths caused by cancer and heart diseases have increased considerably in recent decades. Results from difference-in-difference models show that the decline in the total mortality rate and in the mortality rate for waterborne diseases was largely related with the expansion in the provision of public goods, namely aqueducts and sewerage services. **** Este trabajo examina las tendencias a largo plazo observadas en el nivel de vida de la población colombiana durante los últimos cien años, con especial atención en la salud. Construimos un índice histórico de desarrollo humano para Colombia (IHDHC) para los siglos XIX y XX por género. Encontramos que no hubo avances importantes en los niveles de vida durante el siglo XIX debido principalmente al estancamiento del PIB per cápita de Colombia. Por el contrario, se observaron avances significativos en todos los componentes del IHDHC en el siglo XX, especialmente los de las mujeres. Durante la primera mitad del siglo, las mejoras en la calidad de vida se debieron principalmente a un mayor ingreso per cápita, mientras que las mejoras posteriores a la década de 1950 se debieron a una mayor inversión pública, por ejemplo, en educación y salud. A continuación, analizamos los logros de salud, considerando que la salud es uno de los componentes del IHDHC que ha sido menos estudiado en la literatura de historia económica colombiana. Construimos un nuevo conjunto de datos utilizando estadísticas reportadas por el gobierno colombiano, que incluyeron información anual sobre las principales enfermedades y causas de mortalidad durante el período de 1916-2014 desagregadas por departamentos. Los datos muestran que el porcentaje de muertes por tuberculosis, neumonía y enfermedades gastrointestinales disminuyó significativamente a lo largo del siglo. Por el contrario, las muertes causadas por cáncer y enfermedades del corazón han aumentado considerablemente en las últimas décadas. Los resultados de los modelos de diferencia en diferencias muestran que la disminución en la tasa de mortalidad total y en la tasa de mortalidad por enfermedades transmitidas por el agua estuvo relacionada en gran medida con la expansión en la provisión de servicios de acueductos y alcantarillado.

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  • Juliana Jaramillo-Echeverri & Adolfo Meisel-Roca & María Teresa Ramírez-Giraldo, 2017. "More than One Hundred Years of Improvements in Living Standards: the Case of Colombia," Borradores de Economia 1027, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.
  • Handle: RePEc:bdr:borrec:1027
    DOI: 10.32468/be.1027

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    1. Adolfo Meisel-Roca & María Teresa Ramírez-Giraldo & Daniela Santos-Cárdenas, 2018. "Socioeconomic Determinants and Spatial Convergence of Biological Well-being: The Case of Physical Stature in Colombia, 1920-1990," Borradores de Economia 1053, Banco de la Republica de Colombia.

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    More about this item


    Human Development; Mortality; Waterborne Diseases; Sewerage; Aqueducts; Public Health; Difference in Difference **** Desarrollo Humano; Mortalidad; Enfermedades; Acueducto; Alcantarillado;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I00 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General - - - General
    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • N36 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

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