Two Hundred Years of Health and Medical Care: The Importance of Medical Care for Life Expectancy Gains
NBER Working Paper No. 25330
Using two hundred years of national and Massachusetts data on medical care and health, we examine how central medical care is to life expectancy gains. While common theories about medical care cost growth stress growing demand, our analysis highlights the importance of supply side factors, including the major public investments in research, workforce training and hospital construction that fueled a surge in spending over the 1955-1975 span. There is a stronger case that personal medicine affected health in the second half of the twentieth century than in the preceding 150 years. Finally, we consider whether medical care productivity decreases over time, and find that spending increased faster than life expectancy, although the ratio stabilized in the past two decades.
Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25330