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Life, Death and World Inequality

  • Cordoba, Juan Carlos
  • Ripoll, Marla

Life expectancy around the world has increased substantially since 1970. In contrast, consump-tion per capita has fallen in some countries, remained stagnant, or sharply increased in others.What are the welfare gains of the systematic increase in life expectancy around the world? Howdoes a "full measure" of per capita income, one that adjusts for life expectancy, compare tostandard measures of world inequality that only consider income? This paper documents howstandard models used to answer these questions give rise to a number of predictions that areinconsistent with well-documented evidence, particularly on the value of statistical life. It thenproposes a generalized model with non-separable preferences that exhibits a low elasticity ofintertemporal substitution and a low degree of mortality aversion. The non-separable modelreverts the counterfactual predictions of the standard model, and it also provides plausiblemeasures of changes in welfare and inequality around the world.

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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers with number 34945.

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Date of creation: 01 Mar 2012
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Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:34945
Contact details of provider: Postal: Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070
Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
Web page: http://www.econ.iastate.edu
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  1. Robert E Hall & Charles I Jones, 2007. "The Value of Life and the Rise in Health Spending," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(1), pages 39-72, 02.
  2. Viscusi, W Kip, 1993. "The Value of Risks to Life and Health," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(4), pages 1912-46, December.
  3. Kevin M. Murphy & Robert H. Topel, 2006. "The Value of Health and Longevity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(5), pages 871-904, October.
  4. Viscusi, W Kip & Aldy, Joseph E, 2003. " The Value of a Statistical Life: A Critical Review of Market Estimates throughout the World," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 27(1), pages 5-76, August.
  5. Epstein, Larry G & Zin, Stanley E, 1989. "Substitution, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Consumption and Asset Returns: A Theoretical Framework," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(4), pages 937-69, July.
  6. Charles I. Jones & Peter J. Klenow, 2010. "Beyond GDP? Welfare across Countries and Time," NBER Working Papers 16352, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. repec:reg:rpubli:282 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Weil, Philippe, 1990. "Nonexpected Utility in Macroeconomics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 29-42, February.
  9. Rosen, Sherwin, 1988. " The Value of Changes in Life Expectancy," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 1(3), pages 285-304, September.
  10. Gary S. Becker & Tomas J. Philipson & Rodrigo R. Soares, 2003. "The Quantity and Quality of Life and the Evolution of World Inequality," NBER Working Papers 9765, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Dan Usher, 1973. "The Measurement of Economic Growth," Working Papers 145, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
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