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Life Expectancy and Human Capital Investments: Evidence From Maternal Mortality Declines

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  • Seema Jayachandran
  • Adriana Lleras-Muney

Abstract

Longer life expectancy should encourage human capital accumulation, since a longer time horizon increases the value of investments that pay out over time. Previous work has been unable to determine the empirical importance of this life-expectancy effect due to the difficulty of isolating it from other effects of health on education. We examine a sudden drop in maternal mortality risk in Sri Lanka between 1946 and 1953, which creates a sharp increase in life expectancy for school-age girls without contemporaneous effects on health, and which also allows for the use of boys as a control group. Using additional geographic variation, we find that the 70% reduction in maternal mortality risk over the sample period increased female life expectancy at age 15 by 4.1%, female literacy by 2.5%, and female years of education by 4.0%.

Suggested Citation

  • Seema Jayachandran & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2008. "Life Expectancy and Human Capital Investments: Evidence From Maternal Mortality Declines," NBER Working Papers 13947, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13947
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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