Historical Migration Flows and Global Health Differences

COHERE Discussion Papers, University of Southern Denmark, 2016:1

40 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2017

See all articles by Thomas Barnebeck Andersen

Thomas Barnebeck Andersen

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics

Carl‐Johan Dalgaard

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics

Christian Skovsgaard

University of Southern Denmark, Department of Public Health, Danish Centre for Health Economics

Pablo Selaya

University of Copenhagen

Date Written: February 4, 2016

Abstract

In this study we provide evidence that historical migration flows impact present-day global health differences. The underlying theory is based on three physiological facts. First, vitamin D deficiency is directly associated with increased risk of premature death. Second, the ability of humans to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight (i.e., ultraviolet radiation, UV-R) declines with the level of skin pigmentation. Third, the level of human skin pigmentation is the result of an evolutionary compromise between the costs of pigmentation (e.g., higher risk of vitamin D deficiency) and its benefits (e.g., lower risk of skin cancer); people living in high UV-R regions, as a result, became more intensely pigmented. Accordingly, when individuals indigenous to high UV-R regions migrate to low UV-R regions the risk of vitamin D deficiency rises markedly, which should in turn impact average health in the recipient region. We develop an empirical measure that allows us to explore the aggregate consequences of local populations’ differential risk of vitamin D deficiency, as caused by historical migration flows. Our proposed measure of risk of vitamin D deficiency holds strong explanatory power vis-à-vis health outcomes in a world sample as well as across US states.

Keywords: Health, vitamin D, ultraviolet radiation, skin pigmentation, migration

JEL Classification: I1, J1, J15

Suggested Citation

Andersen, Thomas Barnebeck and Dalgaard, Carl-Johan Lars and Skovsgaard, Christian and Selaya, Pablo, Historical Migration Flows and Global Health Differences (February 4, 2016). COHERE Discussion Papers, University of Southern Denmark, 2016:1, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2908111 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2908111

Thomas Barnebeck Andersen (Contact Author)

University of Southern Denmark - Department of Business and Economics ( email )

Campusvej 55
DK-5230 Odense, 5000
Denmark

Carl-Johan Lars Dalgaard

University of Copenhagen - Department of Economics ( email )

Øster Farimagsgade 5
Bygning 26
1353 Copenhagen K.
Denmark
+45 3532 4407 (Phone)

Christian Skovsgaard

University of Southern Denmark, Department of Public Health, Danish Centre for Health Economics ( email )

J. B. Winsløwsvej 9B, 1.
Odense, 5000 C
Denmark

Pablo Selaya

University of Copenhagen ( email )

Department of Economics
Øster Farimagsgade 5
Copenhagen, 1353
Denmark

HOME PAGE: http://www.econ.ku.dk/pabloselaya

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