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First Quarter 2020, 
Vol. 102, No. 1
Posted 2020-01-17

Health and Economic Development from Cross-Country Perspectives

by Ping Wang and Yin-Chi Wang

In this article, we provide a comprehensive overview of the role that health plays in economic develop­ment. We study cross-country differences in income and health and examine the underused value-of-­life and life-year gain measures. In particular, we compare two value-of-life measures, one based on life expectancy and lifetime utility, and the other based on adult mortality and life insurance data. We find that the perception and receptiveness of life insurance are likely better in countries at more advanced stages of economic development. The value-of-life measure based on life insurance data is thus biased upward and downward for developed and developing countries, respectively. We then summarize the strand of theoretical literature and provide several modeling ingredients potentially useful for establishing an integrated analytic structure for understanding the role that health plays in the process of economic development.