Malaria and Early African Development: Evidence from the Sickle Cell Trait

Emilio Depetris-Chauvin, David N. Weil

NBER Working Paper No. 19603
Issued in October 2013
NBER Program(s):Development Economics, Economic Fluctuations and Growth, Health Economics

We examine the effect of malaria on economic development in Africa over the very long run. Using data on the prevalence of the mutation that causes sickle cell disease we measure the impact of malaria on mortality in Africa prior to the period in which formal data were collected. Our estimate is that in the more afflicted regions, malaria lowered the probability of surviving to adulthood by about ten percentage points, which is roughly twice the current burden of the disease. The reduction in malaria mortality has been roughly equal to the reduction in other causes of mortality. We then ask whether the estimated burden of malaria had an effect on economic development in the period before European contact. Examining both mortality and morbidity, we do not find evidence that the impact of malaria would have been very significant. These model-based findings are corroborated by a more statistically-based approach, which shows little evidence of a negative relationship between malaria ecology and population density or other measures of development, using data measured at the level ethnic groups.

download in pdf format
   (1149 K)

email paper

The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19603

Published: Emilio Depetris-Chauvin & David N. Weil, 2016. "Malaria and Early African Development: Evidence from the Sickle Cell Trait," The Economic Journal, .

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
McCord and Sachs w19512 Development, Structure, and Transformation: Some Evidence on Comparative Economic Growth
Sachs w9490 Institutions Don't Rule: Direct Effects of Geography on Per Capita Income
Ashraf, Lester, and Weil w14449 When Does Improving Health Raise GDP?
Costa w19685 Health and the Economy in the United States, from 1750 to the Present
Easterly and Levine w18162 The European Origins of Economic Development
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us