Geography and Development, Disease

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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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Show 2 Answers (Answer provided by Alex Tabarrok)
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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.

http://home.uchicago.edu/~bleakley/graphical_summaries/Bleakley_Malaria_...

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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.

It's an interesting book. Mann actually makes the argument that tropical diseases were the reasons why African slavery ended up becoming a major institution in plantation economies, particularly Malaria and Yellow Fever.

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Show 1 Answer (Answer provided by Alex Tabarrok)
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Correct - bonus points to Rob! Fixed.

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Show 1 Answer (Answer provided by Alex Tabarrok)
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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
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0032472031000148806#preview
http://www.uh.edu/~bkturan/Bturan_paper1-jmp.pdf
http://www.springerlink.com/content/g42027068k35j494/

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Show 1 Answer (Answer provided by Alex Tabarrok)
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Yes. In fact disease can create a vicious circle. For example, in regions with high levels of AIDS it may not make sense to save much for the future but if people don't save the economy stays poor and there aren't enough resources to fight AIDS.

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I believe sickle cell disease is an evolved genetic resistance to malaria, but the adaptation carries its own harmful costs.

I thought it was the other way around - that malaria remains prevalent because it offers some resistance to sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell anemia is a byproduct of an evolved resistance to malaria. If you have one sickle-cell gene, you get increased malaria resistance. If you get two of them, you get sickle-cell disease. A lot of genetic diseases follow a pattern like this, because if there wasn't some potential benefit the mutation wouldn't persist in the population.

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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.

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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.

Only a few species of mosquitoes are vectors for the type of malaria that infects humans. These mosquitoes have very specific living conditions and cannot live above a certain altitude or below a certain temperature, for example. So in Kenya, the highlands (and parts likely to be seen by tourists on safari) are not affected by malaria, but the coastal areas, including the trading port of Mombasa, are.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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...

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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.

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Equatorial New Guinea also has a tiny population - 700k - making it far easier to run an extractive elite with a few thousand police & soldiers.

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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)

In aggregate it's quite a rich country (hence the high GDP per capita) .. but it's very skewed in terms of distribution so lots of people are still pretty poor .. If you want to see how it's wasted Google "Teodorin Obiang"

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