Agricultural Economics Department


Health and Growth: Causality through Education

Rui Huang, University of Connecticut - Storrs
Lilyan E. Fulginiti, University of Nebraska
Wesley WESLEY Peterson, UNL

Document Type Article

China Agricultural Economic Review, 2 (3), 2010


Abstract Purpose--The paper theoretically and empirically investigates the impact on human capital investment decisions and income growth of lowered life expectancy as a result of HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Design/methodology/approach--The theoretical model is a three-period overlapping generations model where individuals go through three stages in their life, namely, young, adult and old. The model extends existing theoretical models by allowing the probability of premature death to differ for individuals at different life stage, and by allowing for stochastic technological advances. The empirical investigation focuses on the effect of HIV/AIDS on life expectancy and on the role of health on educational investments and growth. We address potential endogeneity by using various strategies, such as controlling for country specific time-invariant unobservables and by using the male circumcision rate as an instrumental variable for HIV/AIDS prevalence. Findings--We show theoretically that an increased probability of premature death leads to less investment in human capital, and consequently slower growth. Empirically we show that HIV/AIDS has resulted in a substantial decline in life expectancy in African countries and these falling life expectancies are indeed associated with lower educational attainment and slower economic growth world wide. Originality/value--The theoretical and empirical findings reveal a causal link flowing from health to growth, which has been largely overlooked by the existing literature. The main implication is that health investments, that decrease the incidence of diseases like HIV/AIDS resulting on increases in life expectancy, through its complementarity with human capital investments lead to long run growth..