Health, Human Capital, and Development

Annu Rev Econom. 2010 Sep:2:283-310. doi: 10.1146/annurev.economics.102308.124436.


How much does disease depress development in human capital and income around the world? I discuss a range of micro evidence, which finds that health is both human capital itself and an input to producing other forms of human capital. I use a standard model to integrate these results, and suggest a re-interpretation of much of the micro literature. I then discuss the aggregate implications of micro estimates, but note the complications in extrapolating to general equilibrium, especially because of health's effect on population size. I also review the macro evidence on this topic, which consists of either cross-country comparisons or measuring responses to health shocks. Micro estimates are 1-2 orders of magnitude smaller than the cross-country relationship, but nevertheless imply high benefit-to-cost ratios from improving certain forms of health.

Keywords: disease; economic growth; envelope theorem; income; schooling.