David R. Henderson  

Tupy: Wealth Saves Lives

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Over at Cato at Liberty, Marian L. Tupy reports the good news on worldwide child mortality. He quotes a UN report:

In 2012, approximately 6.6 million children worldwide--18,000 children per day--died before reaching their fifth birthday, according to a new report released today by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank Group and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs/Population Division. This is roughly half the number of under-fives who died in 1990, when more than 12 million children died.

Some commentators have credited "global action." Well, yes, if by global action you mean that per capita income in economies around the globe has expanded substantially. Tupy gives some interesting data, taken from Charles Kenny of the Center for Global Development:
4.9 billion people--the considerable majority of the planet--[live] ... in countries where GDP has increased more than fivefold over 50 years. Those countries include India, with an economy nearly 10 times larger than it was in 1960, Indonesia (13 times), China (17 times), and Thailand (22 times larger than in 1960). Around 5.1 billion people live in countries where we know incomes have more than doubled since 1960, and 4.1 billion--well more than half the planet--live in countries where average incomes have tripled or more....

One striking fact in the Kenny report above:
Looking at absolute GDP, no country anywhere in the world for which we have data is smaller today than it was in 1960. The countries that saw the size of their economies less than double since 1960 contain just 80 million people--a little more than 1 percent of the planet's population.


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COMMENTS (3 to date)
awp writes:

real GDP per capita or your last two selections are meaningless.

Jacob A. Geller writes:
Some commentators have credited "global action." Well, yes, if by global action you mean that per capita income in economies around the globe has expanded substantially.

Can you substantiate (with some evidence) the subtle implication that organizations like UNICEF and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria have had little role in reducing child mortality, or are you just going to casually imply that they don't deserve much credit?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Jacob A. Geller,
Can you substantiate (with some evidence) the subtle implication that organizations like UNICEF and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria have had little role in reducing child mortality, or are you just going to casually imply that they don't deserve much credit?
Touche. The latter.
No, I can't substantiate without doing more investigation. Admittedly, it's a gut feel on my part, based on two things: (1) the fact that increases in real per capita income reduce mortality and that this is especially true for low-per-capita-income countries, (2) a skepticism justified by decades of observation about how well government programs work when there's no residual claimant.

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