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Life Expectancy and Human Capital Investments: Evidence From Maternal Mortality Declines

Seema Jayachandran, Adriana Lleras-Muney

NBER Working Paper No. 13947
Issued in April 2008
NBER Program(s):Children, Health Economics, Economics of Education

Longer life expectancy should encourage human capital accumulation, since a longer time horizon increases the value of investments that pay out over time. Previous work has been unable to determine the empirical importance of this life-expectancy effect due to the difficulty of isolating it from other effects of health on education. We examine a sudden drop in maternal mortality risk in Sri Lanka between 1946 and 1953, which creates a sharp increase in life expectancy for school-age girls without contemporaneous effects on health, and which also allows for the use of boys as a control group. Using additional geographic variation, we find that the 70% reduction in maternal mortality risk over the sample period increased female life expectancy at age 15 by 4.1%, female literacy by 2.5%, and female years of education by 4.0%.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13947

Published: Seema Jayachandran & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2009. "Life Expectancy and Human Capital Investments: Evidence from Maternal Mortality Declines-super-," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(1), pages 349-397, February. citation courtesy of

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