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Life and Growth

  • Charles I. Jones

Some technologies save lives -- new vaccines, new surgical techniques, safer highways. Others threaten lives -- pollution, nuclear accidents, global warming, the rapid global transmission of disease, and bioengineered viruses. How is growth theory altered when technologies involve life and death instead of just higher consumption? This paper shows that taking life into account has first-order consequences. Under standard preferences, the value of life may rise faster than consumption, leading society to value safety over consumption growth. As a result, the optimal rate of consumption growth may be substantially lower than what is feasible, in some cases falling all the way to zero.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17094.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17094.

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Date of creation: May 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17094
Note: EFG HE PR
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  9. Fatih Guvenen, 2005. "Reconciling Conflicting Evidence on the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution: A Macroeconomic Perspective," Macroeconomics 0507005, EconWPA.
  10. David M. Cutler & Mark McClellan & Joseph P. Newhouse & Dahlia Remler, 1996. "Are Medical Prices Declining?," NBER Working Papers 5750, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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