Life Expectancy and Human Capital Investments: Evidence from Maternal Mortality Declines

53 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2008 Last revised: 12 Aug 2010

See all articles by Seema Jayachandran

Seema Jayachandran

Northwestern University - Department of Economics

Adriana Lleras-Muney

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: April 2008

Abstract

Longer life expectancy should encourage human capital accumulation, since a longer time horizon increases the value of investments that pay out over time. Previous work has been unable to determine the empirical importance of this life-expectancy effect due to the difficulty of isolating it from other effects of health on education. We examine a sudden drop in maternal mortality risk in Sri Lanka between 1946 and 1953, which creates a sharp increase in life expectancy for school-age girls without contemporaneous effects on health, and which also allows for the use of boys as a control group. Using additional geographic variation, we find that the 70% reduction in maternal mortality risk over the sample period increased female life expectancy at age 15 by 4.1%, female literacy by 2.5%, and female years of education by 4.0%.

Suggested Citation

Jayachandran, Seema and Lleras-Muney, Adriana, Life Expectancy and Human Capital Investments: Evidence from Maternal Mortality Declines (April 2008). NBER Working Paper No. w13947, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1121737

Seema Jayachandran

Northwestern University - Department of Economics ( email )

2003 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Adriana Lleras-Muney (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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