James J Feigenbaum, Christopher Muller, Elizabeth Wrigley-Field, 18 February 2019

The mortality rate of non-Hispanic white Americans in midlife has been rising since the beginning of the 21st century, in contrast to the national decline in deaths from infectious disease witnessed during the previous century. This column reviews the fall in infectious mortality in US cities across regions and racial groups. It finds that southern cities had the highest rate of death from infectious disease in every year from 1900 to 1948, primarily because southern cities were populated by greater proportions of black residents, who suffered extreme risks from infectious disease in cities in all regions. 

Frank Lichtenberg, 08 February 2019

Given the relationships between innovation and growth and between growth and longevity, it seems likely that new ideas have played a major role in increased longevity. This column examines the impact of medical innovation on cancer survival rates and mortality in the US. The findings suggest that a significant share of the increase in the five-year observed survival rate between 1994 and 2008 may have been due to an increase in the novelty of medical ideas several years earlier. Turning to the impact of new cancer drugs specifically, it finds that drugs launched in 36 countries during 2006-2010 reduced the number of disability-adjusted life years lost to cancer in 2015 in those countries by about 8.7%.

Janet Currie, 24 January 2019

Janet Currie of Princeton University discusses how increasing access to health care prenatally and in early childhood reduces deaths and leads to long-term improvements in child and young adult outcomes.

Janet Currie, Hannes Schwandt, Josselin Thuilliez, 10 August 2018

Understanding how inequalities in health are related to inequalities in income is a key issue for policymakers. This column describes how despite increasing income inequality in both countries, the development of mortality has been very different in France compared with the US. The findings show that inequalities in income and health do not necessarily move in tandem, and highlight how public policy helps to break this link. 

Jonathan Gruber, Thomas Hoe, George Stoye, 04 August 2018

Emergency departments in hospitals around the world are under pressure to reduce waiting times. This column analyses the effect of a government target for hospitals in England which mandates a maximum waiting time of four hours. The target successfully reduced waiting times and mortality, but increased costs per patient.

Janet Currie, 13 March 2017

Has inequality in mortality been going up or down? In this video, Janet Currie discusses why this inequality has been decreasing. This video was recorded at the American Economic Association in Chicago in January 2017.

Janet Currie, Hannes Schwandt, 02 July 2016

Inequalities in mortality rates are a good indicator of economic wellbeing, but most of the existing literature does little to distinguish between developments in infants and adults. This column uses extensive US data to analyse mortality trends across all age groups. It finds that the health of the next generation in the poorest areas of the US has improved significantly and the race gap has declined significantly. Underlying explanations include declines in the prevalence of smoking and improved nutrition, and a major cause is social policies that target the most disadvantaged. 

Christopher J. Ruhm, 29 October 2015

Conventional wisdom tells us that health deteriorates when the economy weakens and improves when it strengthens. Some research tentatively agrees, but there is a marked dearth of challenges and robust research. This column presents new evidence suggesting that the reductions in mortality occurring during typical economic downturns also occur in periods of crisis, adding useful caveats for different types of downturns and crises.

Siwan Anderson, Debraj Ray, 10 October 2015

The developing world has notoriously low female-to-male sex ratios, a phenomenon that has been described as ‘missing women’. It is argued that this is driven by parental preferences for sons, sex-selective abortion, and different levels of care during infancy. This column shows that these higher rates of female mortality continue into adulthood. It argues that being unmarried, especially through widowhood, can have substantial effects on relative rates of female mortality in the developing world.

Dora Costa, Matthew Kahn, 27 April 2015

Newspapers report good and bad news, but the reporting doesn’t always match reality. This column presents evidence from turn-of-the-century America that news reports of typhoid tracked mortality patterns, but the reporting was biased. Spikes in death rates led to bigger jumps in media coverage when death rates were low. This could be due to the idea that deviations from Kahneman and Tversky’s ‘reference points’ are more newsworthy, or due to the possibility that bad news is more valuable to readers when things seem to be going well.

John Earle, 07 March 2009

A controversial article recently published in the Lancet argues that mass privatisation is responsible for the increased mortality in post-communist societies during the 1990s. It suggests privatised firms cut employment, which hurt health and mortality. This column uses firm-level data to show that there is no evidence that privatisation systematically lowered firm-level employment.

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