Life Expectancy and Human Capital Investments: Evidence From Maternal Mortality Declines
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%.
We are grateful to Ran Abramitzky, Angus Deaton, Ilyana Kuziemko, Ofer Malamud, Jordan Matsudaira, Ben Olken; seminar participants at Berkeley, Bocconi, Brown, City University of New York, Cornell, Duke, Harris School, Harvard-Boston University-MIT, Minnesota, NBER Summer Institute, Notre Dame, Penn, Princeton, Stanford, SUNY Buffalo, UCL/LSE, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, UCLA, University of Maryland, and USC. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
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