Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 10/2011

Longevity, Capital Formation and Economic Development

Qiong Zhang

July 2010

Asia-Pacific Research Center


Many researchers have concluded that longer life expectancies prompt increased investment in education, as a prolonged labor supply raises the rate of return on education. Besides explaining the empirical evidence behind this conclusion (at an absolute level), there is another issue to be discussed: does time spent in studying and working increase proportionally with higher longevity? Building on an extended life-cycle model with an assumption on a more realistic distribution of life cycle mortality rates, this article considers dynamic effects of prolonging longevity on economic development by directly introducing changes in longevity into the economy, which is more preferable than comparative static analysis that relies on changes in relevant parameters. It shows that prolonged life expectancy will cause individuals to increase their time in education but may not warrant rises in labor input. Later we show that higher improvement rate of longevity will also promote economic growth, even if we exclude the mechanism of human capital formation and only consider the growth effects of the higher improvement rate of life expectancy from physical capital investment.