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Free Content The Determinants of Mortality

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Abstract:

The pleasures of life are worth nothing if one is not alive to experience them. Through the twentieth century in the United States and other high-income countries, growth in real incomes was accompanied by a historically unprecedented decline in mortality rates that caused life expectancy at birth to grow by nearly 30 years. In the years just after World War II, life expectancy gaps between countries were falling across the world. Poor countries enjoyed rapid increases in life-expectancy through the 1970s, with the gains in some cases exceeding an additional year of life expectancy per year, though the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the transition in Russia and Eastern Europe have changed that situation. We investigate the determinants of the historical decline in mortality, of differences in mortality across countries, and of differences in mortality across groups within countries. A good theory of mortality should explain all of the facts we will outline. No such theory exists at present, but at the end of the paper we will sketch a tentative synthesis.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/089533006780387634

Publication date: June 1, 2006

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  • The Journal of Economic Perspectives (JEP) attempts to fill a gap between the general interest press and most other academic economics journals. The journal aims to publish articles that will serve several goals: to synthesize and integrate lessons learned from active lines of economic research; to provide economic analysis of public policy issues; to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas among the fields of thinking; to offer readers an accessible source for state-of-the-art economic thinking; to suggest directions for future research; to provide insights and readings for classroom use; and to address issues relating to the economics profession.
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