India and China Infant child mortality reduction without substantial economic growth

May 9, 2015

“…the cross-country data show almost no relationship between changes in life expectancy and economic growth over 10-, 20-, or 40-year periods between 1960 and 2000. Many countries have shown remarkable improvements in health with little or no economic growth, and vice versa. For the two largest countries, India and China, there is a negative correlation between decadal rates of economic growth and progress in reducing infant and child mortality. Almost all of China’s remarkable post–World War II reduction in infant mortality happened prior to the acceleration in economic growth after 1980, after which there was relatively little progress in child health. Similarly, in India, the acceleration of the rate of growth after the economic reforms in the early 1990s was accompanied by a slowdown in the rate of decline in infant mortality (Dreze and Sen, 2002, chapter 4). Dreze and Sen also argue that the slowdown in progress in China was a direct result of the change in policy and the switch in resources that generated the growth.
As with the historical record, then, the cross-country evidence does not suggest that economic growth will improve health without deliberate public action. This may seem paradoxical if only because income brings so many things that favor better health for the poor: better nutrition, better housing, the ability to pay for health care, as well as the means for the public provision of clean water and sanitation.” [Cutler D, Deaton A, Lleras-Muney A. The Determinants of Mortality. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2006; 20(3): 97–120.]


Amartya Sen & Jean Dreze. India: Development and Participation. (Oxford University Press, USA, 2002) chapter 4 David Cutler & Angus Deaton & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2006. "The Determinants of Mortality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(3), pages 97-120, Summer. (No link available) [verified 4/17/14]

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