Geography and Development, Disease
In this video we discuss the geographic distribution of diseases, both for humans and for crops, and the influence of these diseases on growth. We see the
In this video we discuss the geographic distribution of diseases, both for humans and for crops, and the influence of these diseases on growth. We see the importance here of virtuous and vicious cycles in development.
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At least with respect to malaria's influence on the past couple of centuries' development, the graph in the video showing the current distribution of malaria is misleading. Malaria was much more widespread in the countries that are currently rich until very recently. See the parliamentary testimony of Paul Reiter (Pasteur Institute, formerly of the CDC) at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldselect/ldeconaf/12/1..., especial paragraphs 7 - 9.
The video does note the existence of virtuous circles generally, but in the case of malaria Reiter suggests that the causation runs more in the direction of wealth causing a reduction in malaria rather than vice versa.
These are good points and they have led economists to try to control for "reverse" causality (from wealth to malaria eradication) so that they can better estimate the true effect of malaria on growth. One of the best recent examples of this is work by Hoyt Bleakley.
Bleakley notes that malaria has its worse effects on infants who when exposed early can be harmed for life with lower IQs, less human capital etc. Thus Bleakley looks at big malaria eradication efforts and he compares the adult income of people who were born just before and just after the eradication program. What he finds is pretty remarkable--people born just after the eradication program have adult incomes that are 40--60% higher than those born just before the eradication program. Since we are comparing people born at similar times in similar places the suggestion is that it was the malaria eradication in childhood which made the big difference in adult incomes.
Here is a nice powerpoint with some good pictures of the effect.
1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, by Charles C. Mann, has several pages about this issue of malaria infestation in the new world and its economical consequences.
While I agree that it makes intuitive sense, is there any research to support the high disease-high fertility-low education causal chain discussed?
Yes there is quite a bit of research on the link between child mortality rates, fertility, and low investment in children's education. One interesting way of approach this issue is to look at the other way, namely what happens to investment in children when mortality rates exogenously decline, e.g. when mortality rates decline due to new vaccines and the answer is that schooling and other measures of investment increase. Here are a few papers
Would the current prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa also fit this model of disease/low GDP? How will global GDP be affected as HIV spreads more and more worldwide? Also---more developed countries have epidemic levels of cancer, diabetes etc. which are diseases often far more costly to treat than tropical diseases (at least on a person-by-person basis). How will this affect the future of economic development?
Why haven't Africans developed an immunity from Malaria in the same way that Europeans developed an immunity from small-pox?
I believe sickle cell disease is an evolved genetic resistance to malaria, but the adaptation carries its own harmful costs.
The earlier videos suggest that the lack of domesticable animals may play a factor - by being in close proximity to domestic animals' diseases, European humans may have had more opportunities to develop immunity.
Wikipedia suggests that malaria can also develop resistance to immunity quickly due to the short generation-span of its mosquito carriers.
I found another answer in PBS's Gun, Germs, and Steel documentary viewing guide. It says Africans avoided infection by choosing to live in high dry areas where mosquitoes couldn't live. Also, transmission of disease was less likely because people lived in small communities spread out over large areas.
The continent was stuck in a no-win situation. If you wanted to live near the coast and have access to trade, you'd also have to live near breeding grounds for disease. If you wanted to live in-land away from disease, then you were cut-off from trade.
I believe, not being a expert, that it is more related with the Cameron's comment. Well succeed parasites should not kill your victims, making it be difficult to natural selection do its work, and the most part of the so called tropical diseases are parasitary ones. In fact, most of the mortality associated with this kind of disease is executed by "opportunistic diseases" that thrives in the weakness of the already sick bodies.
The short answer is that Africans actually do have greater resistance to Malaria. Of course, greater resistance doesn't translate into immunity, so people were still getting sick from Malaria and even dying (just like how Europeans continued to get sick and occasionally die from Smallpox in spite of being exposed to it for centuries).
I am NOT an expert on such issues but my hypothesis is this: From what little I understand of the malaria parasite, its life cycle from mosquito to human and back to mosquito is less than a month, perhaps only 15 days. The life cycle of diseases of domestic animals would be much longer (months, years?). The shorter the cycle, the faster the evolution, thus the more readily the disease vector can evolve to evade whatever mechanisms of immunity the humans evolve.
I believe the questions are a little bit easy, though it may get tough in coming chapters but I still wanted to you to take notice of this. Thank you.
This is mildly tangental, but I'm contemplating the last slide here and I'm intrigued at the role that corruption - which im extrapolating to represent a culture or societies moral code - plays in this. Are there obvious or documented correlations between the development of moral code and any of the factors discussed in this course so far? More specifically, has geography been shown to similarly influence the way morality (or general philosophy) develops in different regions?
Have you seen the report posted by Science Daily on 27 December 2012 which suggests that disease is even more important than institutions or corruption in braking economic development? Here's the link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121227173332.htm?utm_source...
From what I understand, Equatorial New Guinea has a lot of oil and high levels of inequality, which skew its' placement on the graph at 1:30. My question is, which factor skews it higher?
I believe having oil is what skews ENG's placement on the graph. Oil is a valuable resource but ENG only certain groups have access to the resource and therefore only an elite group benefits from the profit while a majority of people are extremely poor, creating the high inequality.
Equatorial New Guinea also has a tiny population - 700k - making it far easier to run an extractive elite with a few thousand police & soldiers.
The graph showed GDP per capita. Eq Guineas oil wealth is high creating high AVERAGE income. Alex added that it has a very unequal income distribution to illustrate that Eq Guinea is not a rich country but a poor country with a rich elite. (I assume)
Watching through 'Geography & Development' and Jared Diamond videos I keep thinking about something that was noted back in the very first video of the course: that by 1500 all regions/countries were still at about the same level in terms of GDP. How does that play with geography argument, then? Factors you are mentioning here (access to sea, presence of diseases, favourable climate for agriculture) have been a constant feature pretty much ever dawn of civilizations, yet we don't really see any difference in rates of development up until relatively modern times. Why is that and how do we reconcile it with those geographical factors?
European debilitating and deadly diseases: plague, influenza, smallpox, cholera, measles, diptheria, leprosy, pneumonia, tuberculosis, ricketts, scurvy, bronchitis -- none of these diseases of affluence, though of contiguity: does the disease explanation of development still hold?
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Dear Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok,
Thank you for creating such a great educational website.
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I must say that these videos are a bit lacking in argument. There are mostly just wild assertions with no evidence or reasoning. Actually just a lot of Correlation = Causation.
Particularly the coastal region issue - there were also a lot of coastal areas with low GDP. - how does your model explain this?
And the eveidence free assertions like "Communism is Bad" blah.. what rubbish. These are really a bit disappointing.