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The long-run economic costs of AIDS : theory and an application to South Africa

Author

Listed:
  • Clive Bell
  • Shantayanan Devarajan
  • Hans Gersbach

Abstract

Most existing estimates of the macroeconomic costs of AIDS, as measured by the reduction in thegrowth rate of gross domestic product, are modest. For Africa-the continent where the epidemic has hit the hardest-they range between 0.3 and 1.5 percent annually. The reason is that these estimates are based on an underlying assumption that the main effect of increased mortality is to relieve pressure on existing land and physical capital so that output per head is little affected. The authors argue that this emphasis is misplaced and that, with a more plausible view of how the economy functions over the long run, the economic costs of AIDS are almost certain to be much higher. Not only does AIDS destroy existing human capital, but by killing mostly young adults, it also weakens the mechanism through which knowledge and abilities are transmitted from one generation to the next. The children of AIDS victims will be left without one or both parents to love, raise, and educate them. The model yields the following results. In the absence of AIDS, the counterfactual benchmark, there is modest growth, with universal and complete education attained within three generations. But if nothing is done to combat the epidemic, a complete economic collapse will occur within three generations. With optimal spending on combating the disease, and if there is pooling, growth is maintained, albeit at a somewhat slower rate than in the benchmark case in the absence of AIDS. If pooling breaks down and is replaced by nuclear families, growth will be slower still. Indeed, if school attendance subsidies are not possible, growth will be distinctly sluggish. In all three cases, the additional fiscal burden of intervention will be large, which reinforces the gravity of the findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Clive Bell & Shantayanan Devarajan & Hans Gersbach, 2003. "The long-run economic costs of AIDS : theory and an application to South Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3152, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3152
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kaushik Basu, 1999. "Child Labor: Cause, Consequence, and Cure, with Remarks on International Labor Standards," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 1083-1119, September.
    2. David E. Bloom & David Canning & Jaypee Sevilla, 2001. "The Effect of Health on Economic Growth: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 8587, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Bell, Clive & Gersbach, Hans, 2009. "Child Labor And The Education Of A Society," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(02), pages 220-249, April.
    4. Anne Case & Christina Paxson & Joseph Ableidinger, 2002. "Orphans in Africa," NBER Working Papers 9213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Basu, Kaushik & Van, Pham Hoang, 1998. "The Economics of Child Labor," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 412-427, June.
    6. Barro, Robert J & Lee, Jong Wha, 1996. "International Measures of Schooling Years and Schooling Quality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 218-223, May.
    7. C Arndt & J D Lewis, 2000. "The Macro Implications of HIV/AIDS in South Africa: A Preliminary Assessment," South African Journal of Economics, Economic Society of South Africa, vol. 68(5), pages 380-392, December.
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