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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Health Over the Life Course


In recent years, significant advances have been made in better understanding the complex relationships between health and development. This reflects the combined effects of methodological innovations at both the theoretical and empirical level, the integration of insights from the biological and health sciences into economic analyses as well as improvements in the quantity and quality of data on population health and socio-economic status. To provide a foundation for discussing these advances, we describe static and dynamic models of the evolution of health over the life course in conjunction with the inter-relationships between health, other human capital outcomes and economic prosperity. Facts about health and development at both the aggregate and individual levels are presented along with a discussion of the importance of measurement. We proceed to review the empirical literature with a goal of highlighting emerging lines of scientific inquiry that are likely to have an important impact on the field. We begin with recent work that relates health events in early life, including in utero, to health, human capital and economic success in later life. We then turn to adult health and its relationship with socio-economic success,exploring the impact of health on economic outcomes and vice-versa as well as the links between health and consumption smoothing. Recent evidence from the empirical literature on the micro-level impacts of HIV/AIDS on development is summarized. We conclude that developments on the horizon suggest a very exciting future for scientific research in this area.

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