Long-run Growth, Social Institutions and Living Standards
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Long-run Growth, Social Institutions and Living Standards

Edited by Neri Salvadori and Arrigo Opocher

This engaging book contains a set of original contributions to the much-debated issues of long-run economic growth in relation to institutional and social progress.
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Chapter 8: Child Mortality Decline, Inequality and Economic Growth

Tamara Fioroni


Tamara Fioroni 8.1. INTRODUCTION Through the last two centuries, economic development has gradually contributed to the increase in the human life span. In 1840 life expectancy at birth was 40 years in England, 44 years in Denmark and 45 years in Sweden (Livi-Bacci, 2001). According to recent life tables, in 2007 life expectancy at birth in the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden is 79, 78 and 81 years respectively. In most developed countries, life expectancy at birth is around 80 years (CIA, 2007). Developing countries have also shown a rapid increase in life expectancy, albeit prior to 1980. Indeed, in several poor countries the HIV/AIDS epidemic has reversed the positive trend in life expectancy (Becker et al., 2005, Cutler et al., 2006). Figure 8.1 shows how life expectancy rose from 1960 to 2004. A large body of literature suggests that one of the most important factors for this rise in life expectancy is the increase in the level of education (Grossman, 1982; Schultz, 1999). Higher agent’s education, indeed, implies a higher willingness to invest in health care either because education makes people better decision makers or because more educated people have better information about health. Education can improve health through a better choice of health inputs: it reduces smoking, improves eating habits and increases exercise (Adams, 2002). In addition, home environment and parents’ schooling are correlated with lower child mortality (Grossman, 1982; Schultz, 1999). This a key point since the increase in life expectancy at birth mostly stems from the...

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