Technological Progress and Health Convergence: The Case of Penicillin in Post-War Italy

45 Pages Posted: 12 Feb 2019

See all articles by Marcella Alsan

Marcella Alsan

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Vincenzo Atella

University of Rome Tor Vergata - Centre for International Studies on Economic Growth (CEIS); Department of Economics and Finance; University of Rome Tor Vergata - Faculty of Economics

Jay Bhattacharya

Stanford University - Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Valentina Conti

University of Rome Tor Vergata

Iván Mejía-Guevara

Stanford University

Grant Miller

Stanford University - School of Medicine; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 2019

Abstract

Throughout history, technological progress has transformed population health, but the distributional effects of these gains are unclear. New substitutes for older, more expensive health technologies can produce convergence in population health outcomes, but may also be prone to “elite capture” leading to divergence. This paper studies the case of penicillin using detailed mortality statistics and exploiting its sharply-timed introduction in Italy after World War II. We find penicillin reduced both the mean and standard deviation of infectious diseases mortality, leading to substantial convergence across disparate regions of Italy. Our results do not appear to be confounded by competing risks or mortality patterns associated with World War II.

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Suggested Citation

Alsan, Marcella and Atella, Vincenzo and Bhattacharya, Jayanta and Conti, Valentina and Mejía-Guevara, Iván and Miller, Grant, Technological Progress and Health Convergence: The Case of Penicillin in Post-War Italy (February 2019). NBER Working Paper No. w25541. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3332289

Marcella Alsan (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
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Vincenzo Atella

University of Rome Tor Vergata - Centre for International Studies on Economic Growth (CEIS) ( email )

Via Columbia, 2
Rome, I-00133
Italy
+39 06 72595648 (Phone)

Department of Economics and Finance ( email )

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Italy

University of Rome Tor Vergata - Faculty of Economics ( email )

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Italy
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+30 06 2020 500 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.economia.uniroma2.it/sefemeq/professori/atella/

Jayanta Bhattacharya

Stanford University - Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research ( email )

Center for Health Policy
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United States
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Valentina Conti

University of Rome Tor Vergata ( email )

Via di Tor Vergata
Rome, Lazio 00133
Italy

Iván Mejía-Guevara

Stanford University

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Grant Miller

Stanford University - School of Medicine ( email )

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Li Ka Shing Building
Stanford, CA 94305-5101
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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