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The Quantity and Quality of Life and the Evolution of World Inequality

45 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2003 Last revised: 3 Nov 2010

Gary S. Becker

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Tomas Philipson

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Rodrigo R. Soares

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA)

Date Written: June 2003

Abstract

Lack of income convergence for the world as a whole has led to concerns about the impact of globalization of markets on world inequality. GDP per capita is usually used to proxy for the quality of life of individuals living in different countries. However, well-being is also affected by quantity of life, as represented by longevity. This paper incorporates longevity into an overall assessment of the evolution of cross-country inequality. The absence of income convergence noticed in the growth literature is in stark contrast with the reduction in inequality after incorporating recent gains in longevity. The paper computes a full' income measure to value the life expectancy gains experienced by 49 countries between 1965 and 1995. Countries starting with lower income tended to grow more in terms of full' income than countries starting with higher income. The average growth rate of full' income is about 140% for developed countries, compared to 192% for developing countries. Additionally, we decompose changes in life expectancy into changes attributable to thirteen broad groups of causes of death. Infectious, respiratory and digestive diseases, congenital and perinatal conditions, and ill-defined' conditions are responsible for most of the mortality convergence observed between 1965 and 1995.

Suggested Citation

Becker, Gary S. and Philipson, Tomas and Soares, Rodrigo R., The Quantity and Quality of Life and the Evolution of World Inequality (June 2003). NBER Working Paper No. w9765. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=414263

Gary S. Becker (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 East 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Tomas J. Philipson

University of Chicago ( email )

Graduate School of Business
1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, 60637

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Rodrigo R. Soares

Columbia University - School of International & Public Affairs (SIPA) ( email )

420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

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