The Growth Costs of Malaria
Desmond McCarthy, Holger Wolf, Yi Wu
NBER Working Paper No. 7541
Malaria ranks among the foremost health issues facing tropical countries. In this paper, we explore the determinants of cross-country differences in malaria morbidity, and examine the linkage between malaria and economic growth. Using a classification rule analysis, we confirm the dominant role of climate in accounting for cross-country differences in malaria morbidity. The data, however, do not suggest that tropical location is destiny: controlling for climate, we find that access to rural healthcare and income equality influence malaria morbidity. In a cross-section growth framework, we find a significant negative association between higher malaria morbidity and the growth rate of GDP per capita which is robust to a number of modifications, including controlling for reverse causation. The estimated absolute growth impact of malaria differs sharply across countries; it exceeds a quarter percent per annum in a quarter of the sample countries. Most of these are located in Sub-Saharan Africa (with an estimated average annual growth reduction of 0.55 percent).