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Eye Disease and Development

  • Thomas Barnebeck Andersen

    (Department of Business and Economics, University of Southern Denmark)

  • Carl-Johan Dalgaard

    (Institute of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

  • Pablo Selaya

    (Institute of Economics, University of Copenhagen)

This research advances the hypothesis that cross-country variation in the historical incidence of eye disease has influenced the current global distribution of per capita income. The theory is that pervasive eye disease diminished the incentive to accumulate skills, thereby delaying the fertility transition and the take-off to sustained economic growth. In order to estimate the influence from eye disease incidence empirically, we draw on an important fact from the field of epidemiology: Exposure to solar ultraviolet B radiation (UVB-R) is an underlying determinant of several forms of eye disease; the most important being cataract, which is currently the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Using a satellite-based measure of UVB-R, we document that societies more exposed to UVB-R are poorer and underwent the fertility transition with a significant delay compared to the forerunners. These findings are robust to the inclusion of an extensive set of climate and geography controls. Moreover, using a global data set on economic activity for all terrestrial grid cells we show that the link between UVB-R and economic development survives the inclusion of country fixed effect.

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Paper provided by University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 11-22.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: 01 Aug 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:kud:kuiedp:1122
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