Life (Evaluation), Hiv/Aids, and Death in Africa

46 Pages Posted: 15 Jan 2009 Last revised: 1 Jul 2010

See all articles by Angus Deaton

Angus Deaton

Princeton University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Jane Fortson

Princeton University

Robert Daniel Tortora

The Gallup Organization

Date Written: January 2009

Abstract

We use data from the Gallup World Poll and from the Demographic and Health Surveys to investigate how subjective wellbeing (SWB) is affected by mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, including mortality from HIV/AIDS. The Gallup data provide direct evidence on Africans' own emotional and evaluative responses to high levels of infection and of mortality. By comparing the effect of mortality on SWB with the effect of income on SWB, we can attach monetary values to mortality to illuminate the often controversial question of how to value life in Africa. Large fractions of the respondents in the World Poll report the mortality of an immediate family member in the last twelve months, with malaria typically more important than AIDS, and deaths of women in childbirth more important than deaths from AIDS in many countries. A life evaluation measure (Cantril's ladder of life) is relatively insensitive to the deaths of immediate family, which suggests a low value of life. There are much larger effects on experiential measures, such as sadness and depression, which suggest much larger values of life. It is not clear whether either of these results is correct, yet our results demonstrate that experiential and evaluative measures are not the same thing, and that they cannot be used interchangeably as measures of "happiness" in welfare economics.

Suggested Citation

Deaton, Angus S. and Fortson, Jane and Tortora, Robert Daniel, Life (Evaluation), Hiv/Aids, and Death in Africa (January 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w14637, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1327258

Angus S. Deaton (Contact Author)

Princeton University ( email )

Woodrow Wilson School
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States
609-258-5967 (Phone)
609-258-5974 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.wws.princeton.edu/~deaton

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Jane Fortson

Princeton University

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544-0708
United States

Robert Daniel Tortora

The Gallup Organization ( email )

Washington, DC 20004
United States

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