Publication Details

Hassan, G. & Cooray, A. (2012). The effect of female and male health on economic growth: cross-country evidence within a production function framework. Proceedings of the 41st Australian Conference of Economists (pp. 1-29). Melbourne: Victoria University.


It is widely believed by development economists that the role of human capital is one of the most fundamental determinants of economic growth. Sustained growth depends on the level of human capital whose stocks increase due to better education, higher levels of health, new learning and training procedure. The intuition that good health raises the level of human capital and has a positive effect on productivity and economic growth has been modelled by enodogenous growth theorists. But empirically ascertaining the causal relationship between health and growth is more difficult due to the possible existence of endogeneity between these two variables. We use a production function based approach and model the role of health as a regular factor of production. Additionally, we depart from all the previous literature by estimating the gender disaggregated effect of human health on economic growth. We adopt a constant return to scale production function that fits the data in the microeconometric literature on return to human capital. Using this particular production function, we disaggregate the measures of human capital by including male and female life expectancy and school enrolments. Allowing for the dynamics of TFP to be embedded in the production function we empirically test it in growth form using various estimators appropriate for our data. Our main finding is that male life expectancy has a positive effect on the growth of income while female life expectancy has a negative effect, controlling for unobserved time and country effects in a panel of 83 countries from 1960 - 2009. We use lag differences of life expectancy and school enrolments and lagged growth rates of other inputs as instruments for controlling the endogenity of health in the growth regressions. We check for the robustness of the results with use of ‘deletion diagnostics’ to identify influential observations and outliers. The results continue to show that male life expectancy has a positive effect on income growth while that of female has a negative effect.