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Health, Development, and the Demographic Transition


  • Matteo Cervellati
  • Uwe Sunde

    () (IZA)


This paper provides a unified theory of the economic and demographic transition. The main mechanism is based on optimal decisions about fertility and time investments in heterogeneous types of human capital. These decisions depend on different dimensions of health, which themselves are endogenously determined in the process of development. By disentangling the distinct roles that different dimensions of health, such as adult longevity, child mortality, and overall healthiness, play for education and fertility decisions, the model is able to generate dynamics that can replicate the historical development pattern in the Western world. The model generates an endogenous economic transition from a situation of sluggish growth in incomes and productivity to a modern growth regime. Closely related, a demographic transition from high mortality and high fertility to low mortality and low fertility arises, with an intermediate phase of increasing fertility despite falling mortality rates. The model can generate a positive correlation between income and fertility during early stages of development, as well as a decline net fertility in the last phase of the demographic transition, and it provides a rationale for fertility declines that precede drops in child mortality

Suggested Citation

  • Matteo Cervellati & Uwe Sunde, 2006. "Health, Development, and the Demographic Transition," 2006 Meeting Papers 645, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed006:645

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item


    endogenous life expectancy; child mortality; health; heterogeneous human capital; technological change;

    JEL classification:

    • E10 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - General
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General

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