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What doesn’t kill you makes you poorer: Adult wages and early-life mortality in India

Research1 min read

Authors: Nicholas Lawson, Dean Spears

Published in: Economics & Human Biology

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Abstract:

A growing literature indicates that effects of early-life health on adult economic outcomes could be substantial in developing countries, but the magnitude of this effect is debated. We document a robust gradient between the early-life mortality environment to which men in India were locally exposed in their district and year of birth and the wages that they earn as adults. A 1 percentage point reduction in infant mortality (or 10 point reduction in IMR) in an infant’s district and year of birth is associated with an approximately 2 percent increase in his subsequent adult wages.

Consistent with theories and evidence in the literature, we find that the level of schooling chosen for a child does not mediate this association. Because of its consequences for subsequent wages, early-life health could also have considerable fiscal externalities; if so, public health investments could come at very low net present cost.

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r.i.c.e. is a non-profit research organization focused on health and well-being in India. Our core focus is on children in rural north India. Our research studies health care at the start of life, sanitation, air pollution, maternal health, social inequality, and other dimensions of population-level social wellbeing.

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