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Development Economics and Structuralist Macroeconomics

Development Economics and Structuralist Macroeconomics

Essays in Honor of Lance Taylor

Edited by Amitava Krishna Dutt

Lance Taylor is widely considered to be one of the pre-eminent development economists in the world and is known for his work on development planning, macroeconomics of development, stabilization policy, and the global economy. He has also been the major force behind structuralist economics, which is seen by many to be a major alternative to orthodox development economics and policy prescriptions. The essays in this volume, written by well-known scholars in their own right, make contributions to each of these areas while honoring the contributions made by Lance Taylor.

Chapter 4: Poverty is not destiny: comparative life expectancy in Africa

F. Desmond McCarthy and Holger Wolf

Subjects: development studies, development economics, economics and finance, development economics


F. Desmond McCarthy and Holger Wolf 1 INTRODUCTION Rising incomes and improving medical technology have lifted health standards in most countries, alongside other indicators of the quality of life (Easterly, 1999). Policies fostering growth are thus accompanied by indirect health benefits. Yet, income per capita is only part of the story. Health indicators differ dramatically between countries with similar income levels located in close proximity: within the group of low-income countries (under $1000 GNP per capita) in Sub-Saharan Africa, life expectancy ranges from 38 in Guinea-Bissau to 58 in Kenya (World Health Report, 1999). These observations provide prima facie evidence that potentially major health improvements can be obtained at unchanged income levels by adopting best practices within the peer group of countries on similar development levels. In this chapter, we explore the size of these potential gains in terms of life expectancy for a sample of African countries.1 We focus on documenting existing disparities and inquiring whether these are related to observable country characteristics. While causality may at times be intuitive (such as for a positive link between life expectancy and access to safe water), it is not our focus, and indeed would be more convincingly tested in a time series/panel framework. 2 A SIMPLE DECOMPOSITION We begin with a simple decomposition aiming to differentiate the various life expectancies within low-income African countries, all African countries, and all countries worldwide. Our empirical analysis is straightforward. The measure of interest is the difference between the highest life...

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