Adult Mortality, Institutions, and Cross-Country Income Differences

Ryan D. Edwards, Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY)

Recent research has called into question the emergent view from the late 1990s of health improvements as an important contributor to labor productivity and thus income per capita. While improved health can raise the quality of labor, development accounting finds it has a relatively small effect on growth, and studies have associated increases in life expectancy with increases in population size and thus capital shallowing. In this paper I examine a new dataset on the average and variance of adult length of life around the world to provide a new perspective on the role of the mortality transition in promoting economic growth. I find that longer adult life is associated with higher levels of capital accumulation, as life-cycle theory suggests, and of technology, even when controlling for the effects of institutions. But the latter appear to be most important for determining human capital accumulation.

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Presented in Session 101: The Demographic Dividend: Empirical Evidence