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Christine Pence

As I read this article, I noticed that the benefits attributed to fighting malaria and strengthening women empowerment are nearly synonymous to one another, and that the detriments when these things fail to occur are also closely linked. Just as the women empowerment affects nearly all sectors of life so to does malaria. First, when women gain influence in the household as a result of rising status in society or their contribution to the family income through outside employment, the behavior of the household changes for the better. When a household member becomes sick from malaria, the household behavior also changes. Both of these behavioral changes include savings and education among other things. Second, uneducated, unemployed women have much higher fertility rates compared to those who work outside the house. Women who live in areas of high malaria transition too have higher fertility rates. Third, while women empowerment frees a women’s time for things outside of the home, high fertility rates in high malaria areas ensure that women have little time for outside employment because they are too busy caring for their large number of children. Fourth, we saw that in families where the women have little power, girls are the most likely to be disadvantaged. The same phenomenon is seen in high malaria areas. Fifth, just as women’s prioritization of food and healthcare over men’s prioritization of alcohol and tobacco, leads to healthier children, children without malaria have healthier nutritional statuses compared to children with malaria. Fifth, both have large-scale impacts on education.

Furthermore, as we saw with the Duflow article, economic development helps women empowerment and women empowerment aids in economic development. Similarly, eradicating malaria and fighting poverty share a causal relationship that runs in both directions. Therefore, just as development policy should focus on both direct women empowerment and economic development, so too should developing countries focus on direct malaria prevention and economic development as a means to eradicate this deadly disease.

Nick Z.

Only after reading this article have I gained an understanding for the extensiveness of Malaria. I was amazed at how many causal relationships are associated with the disease and how the lives of those in developing countries are affected.

In a number of my past classes such as Professor Diette's Economics of Education or Professor Goldsmith's Economics of Social Issues we have explored the effect human capital can have on economic growth and productivity domestically. Much of the empirical evidence we studied dealt with school quality, teacher quality, or family characteristics, very rarely looking at life threatening variables. The negative externalities associated with malaria seem to be overreaching, influencing many different aspects of the economy such as trade, tourism, and savings. It seems as though there has to be a large emphasis on developing infrastructure in these developing nations so as to prevent the spread of the disease; the current conditions seems to be exacerbating effects. I also believe that efforts should be focused on children, those who are most widely affected by malaria. If those at the source can be eradicated of the disease, perhaps in the long-run we can see economic growth. As to the specific details as to what needs to be done to eradicate such a disease, I have no idea. The problem seems so immense after reading the article, it seems essential that those in developed nations invest in the exploration of a solution.

Peter Partee

Peter Partee
Econ 280 – Development Economics
Professor Casey

“The Economic & Social Burden of Malaria”

Jeffrey Sachs and Pia Malaney are interested in an observable correlation between countries with high levels of malaria and low levels of development. On this this correlation: “The global distribution of per-capita gross domestic product in 1995, adjusted for purchasing power, shows a striking and unmistakable correlation between malaria and poverty.” The relationship remains significant when controlling for other contributors to development such levels of human capital, life expectancy, initial income, and macroeconomic policy. Of the nature of this correlation between malaria and weak growth, the authors indicate that causality might work in either direction or both. In terms of remedying the problem, the authors mention what we have alluded to in class: that development is necessary but not sufficient to solve the malaria problem.

The authors begin their explication of malaria by speaking to the shear magnitude and scope of the disease across the world. For example, every 40 seconds a child dies of malaria, and 300 to 500 million cases of malaria are diagnosed every year. The authors indicate that while some successful attempts have been made at the country level to eliminate the disease, that migration, poor agricultural practices, and frail public healthcare systems have led to the disease’s longevity.

In terms of the transmission of malaria, it involves a female Anopheles mosquito who encounters the malaria parasite by drawing blood from an infected animal. The disease thrives in tropical and subtropical environments; cold environments decrease the rate at which mosquitos can reproduce, thus slowing the transmission rate of the disease.

The costs of malaria range from medical costs and forgone earning to broad social costs such as migration and savings. For example, one effect of malaria is that parents will often choose to have more children than they would in a malaria free environment. Parents might adopt this behavior in order to maintain a certain number of living children assuming that some will die; as we discussed in previous discussions, children are seen in developing countries are frequently seen as assets. Another negative effect of high fertility rates is that a decreased percentage of these children will experience schooling and healthcare.

Colleen Paxton

Our discussion in class yesterday surrounded the truths about human capital investments. One of these is that investment in human capital has increasing returns. And as stated in Sachs and Malaney’s article this includes “total impact on economic growth being greater than the sum of the individual.” We talked about how raising income is necessary but not sufficient for improving health and education. The same issue arises with malaria—economic development is not enough to prevent malaria as seen in countries like Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Malaria affects more than just the health of a population. Sachs and Malaney show that it “affects almost every aspect” of social and economic life. From education to fertility rates to savings, the behavioral response in malarious areas threatens more than just health and has long-term consequences. Do poverty cause malaria or does malaria perpetuate poverty? The causality is undetermined but this discussion made me think of Esther Duflo’s TED talk. She posed the question of how to stop malaria. There are contagion benefits for bednets, like we talked about with flu shots. Will people pay for bednets if they must purchase them? If they get them for free, will they use them? Do free bednets discourage future purchases? Her social experiments showed that people do not get used to handouts; rather they get used to the bednets. A range of options gives a better opportunity to achieve goals. If the goal is ending malaria, perhaps funds and options from organizations like the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria could help stop both the disease and the effects on economics and society.


Echoing what other student have said, this essay closely mirrors Duflo and Sen’s papers on women empowerment and economic development in LDC, except in this case the authors discuss the linkages between malaria and economic development. While the prevalence of malaria has been greatly reduced in temperate regions due to lower temperatures, malaria remains a devastating disease in tropical countries, killing over 1 million people per year. Although the causality of malaria and economic development is not very well understood, Sachs and Malaney demonstrate multiple areas of strong correlation between malaria and economic growth. First, there is more of a fivefold difference between countries that have high rates of malaria and those that do not. Similar to women empowerment, malaria affects development beyond direct medical costs and income. Because malaria increases mortality rate, fertility rates are higher in these areas to counterbalance the higher death rate. As a result, households have less money to spend, per capita, on health and education of children. Moreover, female children often receive the short end of the stick when resources are limited; thus, malaria also disproportionately impoverished girls. Another trickle-down effect of malaria due to increased fertility rates is women employment. The more children a mother has, the more time she has to spend and home and less time she has to work, thus reducing household income. Malaria also decreases the demand for tourism and foreign investment due to the aforementioned risks of malaria-infested regions. While malaria remains one of the biggest health problems in LDCs, there are effective mitigation tactics, such as bednets, indoor spraying, and draining of breeding sites. Malaria, like women empowerment, should be treated as an end in and of itself. Even though it has been demonstrated that economic growth generally promotes reduced rates of malaria, policy should seek to prevent the spread of malaria, independent of economic benefits.

Tim Werner

I think this paper echoed not only the topic of women empowerment that we read earlier this term, but also the study of deworming and its effect on schooling. The effects of malaria on human capital are undoubtedly profound. Obviously, mortality rates from malaria on the youth population are startling, but I was more intrigued at how the disease could affect pregnant mothers, whom experience diminished immunity to the disease, and children before birth. These effects that include low birth weight, cognitive development, and learning ability are directly linked to education and any expectations for future human capital investment, which is a key factor in economic growth.

This paper overlaps the study on deworming and educational benefits where Sachs and Maloney note that children with malaria tend to have poorer nutritional status than non-malarial children. Recall in the deworming study that children with these worms performed poorly in school due to intestinal worms ability to hinder their nutrition intake. Similarly, malarial children are at a disadvantage in school due to poor nutrition. They are also at a disadvantage due to malaria’s effect on cognitive development. Low birth weight, which Sachs and Maloney also mention as one of the affects of malaria, increases the likelihood of failure in school 2-4 times. It is a problem that the overall impact of malaria on human capital development in children has not been extensively explored or quantified. For Sachs and Maloney to say that “the impact of malaria on economic growth rates through mechanism of depressing the rate of human capital accumulation could be considerable” is truly an understatement. Nevertheless, reducing malaria, just like women empowerment and deworming, has its economic benefits (many of which I have not mentioned), but should be treated as an end in itself.

Bayan Misaghi

The opening paragraphs of the Sachs and Malaney article are an indication of just how bad malaria is. I am in a genetics class right now, so the fact that the same allele that protects against malaria is the same one that causes sickle cell in in homozygous recessive individuals shows how high the exposure rate is to malaria and that the probability of dying from malaria—a transmittable disease—is significantly greater than 5% (by conservative estimates).

The article highlights that malaria is a detriment to human capital and that its eradication would yield not only greater productivity, but also would increase skill levels because more children could stay in school for longer. Furthermore, because of lower mortality rates among children, families would be inclined to have fewer children, allowing for a quantity for quality tradeoff. What surprises me most is the lack of focus on malaria prevention especially since, unlike worms, the affects of malaria are conspicuous. Sachs and Malaney say that less than $100 million USD go towards malaria prevention each year. The returns on other investments and social programs would be geometrically greater with fewer people afflicted by malaria, yet the funds that go to support malaria prevention is only a fraction of the total sum that goes towards other social programs like education.

Our discussions in class about the spillover affects—the positive externalities that come with the improvement of human capital—is very relevant to the discourse surrounding malaria prevention and eradication. Probabilities of being infected by the disease fall exponentially with fewer and fewer infected peoples. And the endogenous nature of the relationship between GDP and proportion of the population infected by malaria further shows the “domino effect” in reducing poverty that may occur with reduction of the disease.

Greta Witter

Sachs and Malaney’s discussion of malaria’s powerful impacts as a disease burden echoes many of the themes which we have discussed as a class. Not only the vital importance of human capital improvements to economic growth and development; but also, more nuanced effects of the disease on cognitive function and physical capital acquisition.
It is understood that the stresses of living in poverty can impact the ability to make rational and thoughtful decisions – the presence of malaria only intensifies this issue. Sachs and Malaney argue that “the adverse effects on schooling are likely to go far beyond the number of days lost per year” (683). Even further than this immediate impact on education and human capital development, malaria can damage cognitive and fetal development. The consequences of damaged decision-making seem to be pervasive and persistent – just like the disease itself. Malaria places constraints on individuals’ ability to save for the future and migrate towards better jobs, just as it discourages firms from investing in malarious regions – this sort of isolation is dangerous in a modern economy so centered on globalization.

Mac Keers

After reading this article, I cannot even grasp how the costs of malaria could be properly quantified. The list of tangible and intangible consequences is so long and severe that an exact calculation seems impossible. What is clear though, is that malaria represents a barrier that must be broken before many of the high malaria countries and regions can move forward with economic development.

In class we discussed the importance of health for realizing returns on education investments. The article clearly shows that the health linkage is strong and poses problems for many people. These include the ability to go to school or even leave their country for a while to gain education elsewhere. The weakened immune response from being away from the disease can increase the likelihood of death after being away for as short as a year. Then there is of course the inability to receive proper education while afflicted by the disease. This kind of a situation puts people in infested areas in a difficult situation where their only real opportunity is to leave for good but of course the likelihood of that is very low considering the poverty that usually characterizes these regions.

When considering some of the solutions that have been forwarded about development it is sad to think that something like malaria could render so many of them completely invalid. Things like savings or capital investment are irrelevant if the population is constantly stricken ill, there are uncontrollable, high child mortality rates, or people are afraid to even visit the area. On the surface, it seems that health problems that are as pervasive as malaria have to be the first priority or else other development projects will end up with muted results at best.

Julia Murray

While reading this article, I was particularly struck by the indirect cost of malaria regarding mobility: as we read in "The Economic Lives of the Poor," one of the biggest obstacles that the poor face to economic prosperity is their lack of mobility. While Banerjee and Duflo's article points to community and family ties as the main reason why the poor do not change geographic locations to find work, the argument about malaria is even more compelling. The efficiency of markets assumes perfect mobility. If the poor cannot change locations to find a job where they are prevalent, they will be precluded from the few economic opportunities that exist. This problem of mobility is especially troublesome because there does not seem to be an easy fix. If individuals are afraid to travel to other regions in fear of losing immunity to the particular strain of malaria in their region or encountering a new strain, the costs of moving will always be too high. As Sachs and Malaney point out, the eradication of malaria in tropical environments is not a realistic goal. While the impacts of malaria can be diminished in a small number of specific areas, a large-scale fix that would improve many regions does not seem feasible. One possible solution to this problem is the improvement in information among the poor. If they were aware of which of the surrounding areas were prone to malaria and possible travel routes they could take to avoid the disease, mobility could improve.

Vincent Kim

This article, as other students have mentioned, explains the gravity of global malaria in terms of human capital loss and the resulting loss in potential GNP per capita growth. Solutions presented include draining swampland to destroy mosquito breeding grounds, indoor spraying of residual insecticides such as DDT, and improved housing/screening (including the insecticide-treated nets) to keep mosquitos away from people. While these may be effective solutions, Sachs and Malaney suggest that not enough aid is committed to these solutions. However, am curious to know whether environmental concerns also inhibit implementation. For instance, maybe some communities reject the usage of insecticides such as DDT because they believe its benefits do not outweigh the harm done to the other species and the environment. Also, have some countries opposed draining swamplands for conservation reasons? Aside from environmental concerns, there have been issues with unintended consequences such as communities using the mosquito nets for fishing. I would like to know more about how people implement these solutions at the political level, the ground level, and how academics such as Sachs and Malaney further try to aid in their implementation after conducting economic research.


Overall, the Sachs and Malaney article ties in a lot of what we have focused on in class up to this point, particularly human capital investment and women's empowerment and economic development, as others have mentioned above.

What struck me about this article was one of the hypotheses used to explain the linkage between high infant/child mortality rates and high fertility rates. The article mentions the 'child-survivor hypothesis' when parents base their fertility decisions on a desire for a certain number of surviving children. (We've discussed the idea of fertility as a form of informal insurance in class as well). In turn, this high-fertility environment entails “large human capital costs for women” (682). (This goes back to our discussions of Duflo’s paper and women empowerment and economic development).

Particularly related to the economic and social impact of malaria, I found it interesting that "when malaria incidence within African villages is stratified by household income, there is often little difference across income classes" (681). In other words, malaria doesn't discriminate between richer and poorer. This justifies the relationship between malaria and poverty (the idea that malaria creates poverty). However, like many above, I think the dual causality relationship between malaria and poverty is justified and legitimate, so the fact that malaria does not discriminate between richer and poorer is only one piece of the entire dual causality puzzle.


As echoed by previous posts, the article by Sachs and Malaney highlights many of the themes that we have touched in class such as women's empowerment; the relation of high-mortality rates and increasing fertility rates; the effects of human capital on economic development; human capital as a function of education, health, and nutrition; among others. Although, I thought about Malaria as a detrimental phenomenon for society, this article highlighted the worrisome compounding negative effects that this disease has on society. For example, in countries where Malaria is prevalent people have incentives to have more children due to the high mortality rates (especially among young population).Simultaneously, high fertility rates not only decrease incentives for parents to invest in their daughters’ education , but as parents have more children, the investment on education allocated to each child declines as well . Even if parents provide good quality education to their children, if the latter have Malaria they might benefit less from access to education. As mentioned in the article, Malaria has been associated with reductions in children’s cognitive abilities. Just by looking at the effects of Malaria on education, one can see that the negative effects of different factors add together and therefore exert an even greater negative impact on education. Reading this article increased my understanding of the huge effects that Malaria has on society, besides those related to health.


Something I found particularly intriguing about the malaria article was the discourse about how globalization has exacerbated the detrimental effects of malaria. Sachs and Malaney wrote about how although malaria’s isolating effects used to be beneficial in “[protecting] malarious countries from European colonizers,..the isolation has more negative effects” in today’s globalized economy. Although I initially thought that malaria could not have such a large effect on foreign investment, the article says that the relationship between malaria and foreign investment in malarious countries “is sadly well grounded in reality.” The article cites the experience of the London Billiton’s investment that caused 7,000 malaria cases and 13 deaths of employees in Mozambique.

This discussion is particularly interesting in light of some of the GapMinder visuals we saw today in class, as well as globalization topics we’ve been discussing in my Global Communications class. For instance, although causality cannot be determined, we saw through GapMinder how income disparity between countries has grown along with cell phone use disparity. My globalization class has talked a lot about the digital divide and how, in a world becoming so dependent on connectivity for technological development, those countries without connection to the outside world fall behind. In the same way, the isolation that malaria creates can hinder development.

Daniel Molon

This article looks at the debilitating effects of malaria in tropical areas. Malaria’s effects are much more pronounced than is often attributed, as traditionally, the only things that get attributed to malaria are missing days of work, and potential death. However, malaria is so prevalent in tropical areas of the world, that it has had cultural and sociological effects, such as household decision-making with regards to fertility, saving, crop choices, schooling, and migration. Malaria has also affected the decisions of the first world, when considering capital investment and tourism with tropical areas. All of these negative effects have caused malaria to be a major factor in determining the poverty level of tropical regions. If first world countries began viewing investment in tropical areas less in terms of providing physical capital, and instead began trying to improve the human capital, then they would increase investment in healthcare in the region. With improved health services, than not only would children miss fewer days of school and improve the quality of their education, but the communities would be more likely to invest in children’s education as their mortality rates decrease and life expectancy’s increase. By living longer, missing fewer days of work, and getting a better education, the people’s incomes in these areas should greatly improve. The long run benefits of increased healthcare investment would improve the education, health, and incomes in the tropics, which are three of the main factors considered when determining the quality of life in an area.

Carson Coffman

In rereading this article after our class discussion on Thursday, I focused on the aspect of migration, trade and foreign direct investment. I had never considered the importance of these factors on a malaria-stricken country. If a country is diseased, not only will people not travel there, but also no one will trade with that country for fear of receiving compromised goods. On a whole new level, investors will not come in to pump money into the economy, thus perpetuating the spread of malaria. This all goes back to the vicious cycle concept that I relate to each article. A malaria stricken country needs to overcome poverty in order to have a fighting chance to rid its people of malaria. However, the disease is preventing any of this from happening. Malaria suppresses any linkages among countries of the world--no one will trade or invest for the fear of getting sick. As we demonstrated in class using the Gapminder, the relationship between malaria and poverty is causal in both directions.

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