Health economics

Caterina Alacevich, Alessandro Tarozzi, 23 April 2017

Data typically show that people become progressively taller as living standards improve. But despite impressive recent rates of economic growth, India remains one of the worst-performing countries in terms of height. Using data from Indian and English health surveys, this column reveals that, conditional on parents’ height, children of Indian ethnicity are on average taller when born and raised in England rather than in India. The results provide evidence against the importance of genetic factors in explaining the disappointing growth performance of Indian children.

Mirko Licchetta, Michal Stelmach, 14 April 2017

Population ageing is one of the most commonly cited drivers of rising healthcare spending. However, other non-demographic cost pressures, such as increasing relative health spending and technological advancement, also contribute substantially over the longer term. This column argues that taking these additional factors into account, the UK’s net public debt due to healthcare is projected to be up to twice as large in 2066. These findings stress the importance of balancing the budget as early as possible to keep public finances on a sustainable path.

Timothy Hatton, 03 April 2017

There is growing concern about the long-term health effects of atmospheric pollution. Conditions were much worse a century ago in Western countries, when coal-fired industrialisation reached its zenith, than they are now in countries where pollution presents the greatest challenges today. This column highlights the effect of polluted air on adult heights using a sample of British army soldiers in WWI. Pollution accounts for a difference of almost an inch between the average adult heights in least and most polluted localities.

Nicholas W. Papageorge, Gwyn C. Pauley, Mardge Cohen, Tracey E. Wilson, Barton H. Hamilton, Robert Pollak, 01 April 2017

A link has been established between domestic violence and poor labour market outcomes. This column uses US data to explore the relationship between health and both domestic violence and drug use. HIV+ women who benefitted from the introduction of a medical innovation that delayed the onset of immune system decline experienced less domestic violence and reduced their drug use. Ignoring the link between medical innovation, health, and outcomes such as these is likely to lead to underinvestment in research.

Pierre Dubois, Rachel Griffith, Martin O'Connell, 31 March 2017

There have been calls for restrictions on junk food advertising to tackle rising rates of obesity around the world. This column examines the likely effect of a ban on potato crisp advertising. Results suggest that the total quantity of crisps sold would fall by around 15% in the presence of a ban, or by 10% if firms respond with price cuts. The welfare benefits from this would depend on whether current advertising is persuasive, informative or complementary.

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