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Population and Health Policies

  • Schultz, T. Paul

    ()

    (Yale University)

The program evaluation literature for population and health policies is in flux, with many disciplines documenting biological and behavioral linkages from fetal development to late life mortality, chronic disease, and disability, though their implications for policy remain uncertain. Both macro- and microeconomics seek to understand and incorporate connections between economic development and the demographic transition. The focus here is on research methods, findings, and questions that economists can clarify regarding the causal relationships between economic development, health outcomes, and reproductive behavior, which operate in many directions, posing problems for identifying causal pathways. The connection between conditions under which people live and their expected life span and health status refers to "health production functions." The relationships between an individual's stock of health and productivity, well-being, and duration of life encompasses the "returns to health human capital." The control of reproduction improves directly the well-being of women, and the economic opportunities of her offspring. The choice of population policies may be country specific and conditional on institutional setting, even though many advances in biomedical and public health knowledge, including modern methods of birth control, are now widely available. Evaluation of a policy intervention in terms of cost effectiveness is typically more than a question of technological efficiency, but also the motivation for adoption, and the behavioral responsiveness to the intervention of individuals, families, networks, and communities. Well-specified research strategies are required to address (1) the economic production of health capacities from conception to old age; (2) the wage returns to increasing health status attributable to policy interventions; (3) the conditions affecting fertility, family time allocation, and human capital investments; and (4) the consequences for women and their families of policies which change the timing as well as number of births.

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