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The Effect of Health on Economic Growth: Theory and Evidence

  • David E. Bloom
  • David Canning
  • Jaypee Sevilla

Macroeconomists acknowledge the contribution of human capital to economic growth, but their empirical studies define human capital solely in terms of schooling. In this paper, we extend production function models of economic growth to account for two additional variables that microeconomists have identified as fundamental components of human capital: work experience and health. Our main result is that good health has a positive, sizable, and statistically significant effect on aggregate output. We find little variation across countries in average work experience, thus differentials in work experience account for little variation in rates of economic growth. Finally, we find that the effects of average schooling on national output are consistent with microeconomic estimates of the effects of individual schooling on earnings, suggesting that education creates no discernible externalities.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8587.

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Date of creation: Nov 2001
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Bloom, David E., David Canning and Jaypee Sevilla. "The Effect of Health on Economic Growth: A Production Function Approach." World Development 32, 1 (2004): 1–13.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8587
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  1. Gallup, J.L. & Sachs, J.D. & Mullinger, A., 1999. "Geography and Economic Development," Papers 1, Chicago - Graduate School of Business.
  2. N. Gregory Mankiw & David Romer & David N. Weil, 1990. "A Contribution to the Empirics of Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 3541, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. John Luke Gallup & Jeffrey D. Sachs & Andrew Mellinger, 1999. "Geography and Economic Development," CID Working Papers 1, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
  4. Carneiro, Pedro & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Human Capital Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 821, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Peter Klenow & Andrés Rodríguez-Clare, 1997. "The Neoclassical Revival in Growth Economics: Has It Gone Too Far?," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 73-114 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. David E. Bloom & David Canning, 2004. "The Health and Wealth of Africa," World Economics, World Economics, Economic & Financial Publishing, 1 Ivory Square, Plantation Wharf, London, United Kingdom, SW11 3UE, vol. 5(2), pages 57-81, April.
  7. Barro, Robert J & Lee, Jong-Wha, 2001. "International Data on Educational Attainment: Updates and Implications," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(3), pages 541-63, July.
  8. Stephen Knack & Philip Keefer, 1995. "Institutions And Economic Performance: Cross-Country Tests Using Alternative Institutional Measures," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(3), pages 207-227, November.
  9. Strauss, J. & Thomas, D., 1995. "Health, Nutrition and Economic development," Papers 95-23, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
  10. David E. Bloom & Jeffrey D. Sachs, 1998. "Geography, Demography, and Economic Growth in Africa," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 29(2), pages 207-296.
  11. Pritchett, Lant & Summers, Lawrence H., 1993. "Wealthier is healthier," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1150, The World Bank.
  12. Peter J. Klenow & Mark Bils, 2000. "Does Schooling Cause Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1160-1183, December.
  13. Young, Alwyn, 1994. "Lessons from the East Asian NICS: A contrarian view," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(3-4), pages 964-973, April.
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