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“The Economic and Social Burden of Malaria” and “The Economics of Being Poor” inspired me to ask a question I’ve long wanted an answer to: what is the government doing? The question is too broad and the answer is never satisfying, regardless of where your political tendencies lie. But, as a young woman dedicated to the ideals of a government by the people and, most importantly, for the people, I wonder what can be done.
In sub-Saharan Africa, much of the blood used for transfusions to treat children suffering from malaria is infected with HIV. Perhaps it is my first-world blindness, but this seems incomprehensible. Treating a child with a terrible illness, only to give him one with a near certain death sentence? How can this be? And, more importantly, what can be done to stop it? I wonder if there is a means by which the government (in the normative sense, without the corruption that plagues sub-Saharan Africa just as the mosquitoes do) can step in. It seems simple infrastructure to provide blood tests for donations or even for the donators could help prevent this problem by at least some measure.
And in the case of land use, what can the leaders of this world do to encourage “intelligent evolution of humanity” instead of the fatalistic natural earth view. We see programs to implement smart technology in some countries, but those are not the ones with a bulk of their population in agriculture. How can we remove the spotlight from land depletion theory and focus instead on human capital? I think the answer might lie in stepping out of the comfortable world in which I live. I’ve spent 22 years thinking a very specific set of thoughts, and I’m excited that these thoughts are being questioned in this class. How could I look a starving child stricken down by malaria in the eyes and say that I would rather not give the government a few extra tax dollars to help him. Are we so hung up on preserving what we think is right that we overlook what our hearts can tell us is right? So many can look to the core of agriculture and call it traditional, call it a fleeting revolution, call it whatever seems to fit to accomplish a separate goal.
My generation has the power to change how we think in a more global way than ever before. Should it not be our mission to help make sure that every child born is allotted the same God-given opportunities to greatness without the shackles of illness, illiteracy or geographic separation from aspiration. Yet again, I find this class and these readings inspiring me to more – to invest in the education and health and quality of the global population of which I am a part.

Ololade Rachel Oguntola

It seems like the discussion around economic development keeps coming back to the central importance of health and women’s agency. I attended a VMI professor’s talk last week Friday in Huntley on whether an increased number of women in parliament will contribute significantly to economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. The answer was very likely. This is because if more women are in such high positions, there is a tendency to allocate financial resources towards the health sector. Personally, I had not explicitly made this connection between women and budgeting but the talk helped me understand how having women in parliament could help stimulate economic development. Schultz’s lecture also alludes to this importance of investing in health. As we have discussed in previous class sections, significant investments in health can help further people’s life expectancy, which can substantially be instrumental for economic development. I believe we saw something similar using the GapMinder tool for China. For Schultz, health contributes to population quality. His recognition of population quality and not just quantity is one I recognize as well. Nigeria is the 7th largest country in the world by population. In Chapter 6 in our textbook, it was mentioned that population distribution could also be an issue and not just population growth. I think in Nigeria’s case, it is definitely an issue of population quality and population distribution and this is where the population discussion plays a role in the country’s economic development. There are so many states in Nigeria that are sparsely populated relative to size leaving Lagos with a small size of 999kmsq as the most populated city in the country. Overall, the health care system is subpar resulting in poor population quality in addition to poor population distribution.

Tying in nicely with Sachs and Malaney’s paper on Malaria, it is once again clear the issues surrounding health are of utmost importance. This paper written in 2002 gave a stat that “Africa alone accounts for 90% of malaria mortality.” I decided to look up the most recent stats and was shocked to find that ”. In 2015, there were an estimated 438, 000 malaria deaths worldwide” (WHO World Malaria Report 2015) with the same 90% statistics. Despite evidence that progress has being made over the years in the fight against malaria in Africa, I was really baffled why this malaria mortality rate did not show any decline. The prevalence of malaria in the mostly tropical regions also highlighted the issue of poverty as it relates to different demographic conditions and how demography can sometimes be forgotten in this discussion of poverty in developing countries (specifically the tropics). In the paper, we see how places like Greece and Spain were able to accelerate their economic development by suppressing malaria transmission. It can be argued that the demography in these places also helped in this suppression by reducing the habitable conditions for the malaria vectors. Now, the question is how do you significantly suppress malaria transmission in places like sub-Saharan Africa where the region is very conducive for the vectors? I believe this is where the government really needs to play a big role. Unfortunately, the government, especially in Nigeria, does not understand this importance of health and its role in economic development at least to the best of my knowledge.I believe the government rather is more concerned with economic growth and Nigeria has been doing pretty well on that front except recently due to oil prices tanking. For Nigeria perhaps (and other developing countries), if more women had leadership roles in the government, they would in fact place more emphasis to the health sector. Not only would this mean lower fertility and mortality rates but also, it would mean better population quality and significant progress in economic development.

David Cohen

After reading both articles, I am going to have to disagree with Schultz’s argument that every instance of slow economic growth can be answered by the universal application of “standard economic policy”, and that the European case was the same as the current African case. Obviously, I am lacking a great deal of information. It is very possible that conditions conducive to economic growth in Medieval Northwestern Europe were better than modern sub-Saharan Africa, and equally possible that they were worse. I do not have the facts, and would argue that few, if any, have a complete understanding of this issue. However, standard economic theory cannot account for everything, and these are clearly not completely identical situations. Besides Rodrik’s (rather convincing) scholarship on the critical importance of institutions when considering economic policy, it is clear that there are other factors differentiating cases from one another. Theoretical concepts applied in one part of the world (in a different era), just may not work elsewhere. Standard economic theory addressing “scarcity issues” have little answer for the existence of Malaria. This is an issue that has never been a problem for many countries, and is a great example displaying the fact that not every case is equal. In just sub-Saharan Africa alone, there are hundreds of millions of cases a year. 25% of all deaths from children aged 0-4% are caused by malaria, and a sizable percentage of deaths are attributed to malaria indirectly. This leads to a disproportionately high fertility rate and lower investments per child. It also wreaks havoc on absentee rates in school, leading to high drop out. It can also cause low birth rate, learning disabilities, anemia, immunity deficiencies, and additional long term cognitive problems. It also prevents families from accumulating savings, a key to economic growth. Moreover, malaria promotes the movement of human and physical capital away from afflicted areas, to more productive environments. Foreign direct investment and tourism industries suffer greatly due to malaria. Clearly, a significant amount of policy needs to be devoted to solving this problem, and more research is definitely necessary to help in this process. It seems to me that many of these countries will not be prosperous until this problem is solved, as malaria will stunt the effectiveness of standard economic theory. As we have learned, Sachs would definitely support aid as a large part in this process. Sachs (as we have learned) would definitely be a proponent of foreign aid as a large part of the solution to this issue.

Andy Kleinlein

“The Economic and Social Burden of Malaria” brings me back to the most important thing that I have learned in this class so far. Simply by trying to grow the economy through GDP/income is not the solution. There are deeper problems within these countries and regions. Sometimes, health and education must be addressed in order to improve the GDP. We are uncertain which comes first, health improvement or GDP growth, but we know that we cannot ignore health. Through examples in this paper, it becomes obvious that health needs to be fixed before the GDP can be fixed. But this leaves me to question how people have been donating money to help out impoverished countries. It seems that a lot of people donate money to help eliminate poverty, but I don’t quite understand where this money is going. The government has not intervened in proper ways potentially. The second paper, “The Economics of Being Poor,” sheds light on this. When reading this combined with the first one, one would think that the government would have the ability to analyze the malaria problem and provide healthcare options. Maybe the government needs to become more involved with where people donate money. If the government took more control of charity, then they could effectively reach those who need help and give money to those most in need.


Schultz starts his lecture by arguing that people in developing countries care about improving the economic situation for themselves and their families just as much as people in developed countries. This point reminds me of our first reading on the Economic Lives of the Poor which explains the economic reasoning behind the choices made. With this thinking in mind, my first thought when reading about malaria was the problems associated with distributing bed nets to fight malaria. I first heard about this in a previous class and found this article today (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/world/africa/mosquito-nets-for-malaria-spawn-new-epidemic-overfishing.html?_r=0). Aid agencies had distributed bed nets throughout Africa to help combat malaria, but many families were using the nets to fish instead. This obviously meant that nothing was being done to fight malaria, but there were also environmental concerns associated with introducing the toxins into bodies of water and killing off fish populations. This is an example of the importance of health education in addition to investments in health and education. Investments in health education will ultimately make the health and educations initiatives more effective. This was an important point in Professor Blunch’s health economics in developing countries class. When large international organizations attempt to distribute goods without taking customs into account there may be adverse affects. It is hard to convince someone that their actions are harming their families (failure to protect against malaria) and the community (harmful effects to fish populations) when these bed nets may provide the only source of income when used for fishing purposes. This is another example of the poor distributive processes serving the poor in developing countries. Public health measures like these are vital to increasing human capital and will have many spillover effects (such as increased personal investments in education or increased foreign investment or tourism, a point I never considered before this essay), but must be executed in the most efficient manner that respects the situations and tradeoffs that the beneficiaries deal with.

Pearce Embrey

I enjoyed reading both articles through the lens of thinking about the human capital aspect of poverty and inequality. It is tough to see the statistics in the malaria article; it is powerful enough to incite people to action, and I think the article largely promotes the use of foreign assistance to help families combat the social cost of preventative care. It is true that if the incidence of malaria were reduced, the social benefits from expenditures on human capital would increase, and we know this to be fact from the theory discussed in class. Schultz also advocates for expenditure on human capital development in his nobel talk, and while I think that this is important, I am worried about economies that are still largely agricultural based. Schultz states that increasing human capital is more important for development than land-based policies, but what do people in these largely agricultural based economies do with more education? Would the increase in production and lowering of fertility rates really help these people attain much higher standards of living?


The main feature I noticed while reading both “The Economics of Being Poor” and “The Economic and Social Burden of Malaria” was that many of the points the authors made dealt with interdependent effects of variables and factors on one another, and spill-over effects from one event happening or a policy being implemented. For example, in “The Economic and Social Burden of Malaria,” Sachs and Malaney discuss how higher incidences of malaria cause higher fertility rates, as a form of hedging bets against a high likelihood of one’s children dying, which in turn leads to less human capital investments in women, because they are going to be spending so much of their time in pregnancy and raising infants. This simple chain of events ends in sub-optimal levels of human capital, and thus is very detrimental to the economy—a prime example of a snowballing of negative influences. What I also interpret this to mean, however, is that these spill-over effects can work in a positive direction as well, and being able to substantially mitigate malaria in tropical regions, or being able to improve the quality of just some sub-set of workers in a country, could cause very significant improvements in multiple facets of a developing country’s economy.
After reading the piece on malaria, I wanted to look into ways in which this epidemic can be stopped. Although ecologists seem to categorically agree that eliminating mosquitos altogether is not particularly feasible, and would be harmful to ecosystems where mosquitos are a large source of food, it may be possible just to eradicate a few dozen or so of the species in the Anopheles genus, which contains most of the malaria-carrying mosquito species. Also, the piece mentioned at the end how there is not nearly as much investment in reducing malaria as there should be; and, although the government and altruistic agencies definitely have a role to play in this, I think private drug companies are in the best position to undergo R&D for curing or mitigating malaria. In my health economics course last year, we looked at how drug companies generally invest their R&D into producing drugs that will help those with a high ability to pay, and thus don’t generally work on creating drugs that will cure diseases like malaria in developing countries. However, if a system could be developed to help incentivize these drug companies otherwise, major developments could definitely be made in helping developing countries with their medical issues, which in the long-run will be beneficial for everyone.
My final note is on the first sentence in “The Economics of Being Poor:” “…if we knew the economics of being poor, we would know much of the economics that really matters.” I think this statement puts effectively into words a lot of what we have talked about in class. Just as we would for a Western European country, or for the US, when looking at developing countries we simply take the economic models that we have—the abstractions of complex systems, using nearly infinite assumptions—and try and apply them the best we can given the circumstances. Any given developing country isn’t necessarily “different” from developed ones—we have to keep in mind developed countries were developing at one point.

Alex Shields

I was struck in the Shultz lecture about the importance of technology for development. Schultz, in my mind, makes a great point in saying Malthus and Ricardo's theories were wrong because of changes in technology. I think it's easy to sit back and just trust that technological gains will eventually solve all these problems that we are always predicting and yet there is always the thought in the back of my mind of when is technology not going to be enough? When are we going to face that ultimate problem? The good news is that this should not happen in my lifetime or anytime soon but utlimately, who knows? I think the most important thing that I took out of this reading specifically is the importance of technology for continued growth and even more importantly, the spread of this technology from highly developed countries, where the technology generally originates, to low income countries who need it in order to solve some of their basic problems.

This also made me think of the comment in class that preventative measures are more important than reactionary measures particularly when discussing the topic of health. In the case of the malaria study, the US basically eradicated malaria in order to prevent the country from having to extensively deal with the issue. In the same light, sleep nets can be incredibly helpful for people in developing countries that suffer from malaria in preventing people from ever contracting the disease. I think it was a great point that it is much cheaper in the immediate to take preventative measures rather than having to pay much more in the long run. This reminded me of the issue of getting a flu shot. For my entire life, I always got a flu shot. Last year, however, I didn't get a flu shot for a first time and, as a result, spent four months getting sick on and off last winter/spring, highlighting the importance of preventative measures. If I had just taken the time to get my free flu shot, I would not have had to spend all that time being sick. This concept of preventative measures can be applied to all areas of development economics.

Matthew Sgro

A commonly held belief by people stating the world population is outgrowing our ability to feed it is that land is a finite resource. In "The Economics of Being Poor" by Theodore Schultz this notion is basically denounced as false, " Mankind's future is not foreordained by space, energy and cropland. It will be determined by the intelligent evolution of humanity". Instead he says our future is limited by the ability of our minds to continue to come up with solutions- essentially arguing for his point that human capital is the most important resource. So why not give these people the resources to succeed? i.e. -> insurance to be able to take risks on crops with higher yields, subsidized land-grant schools/universities.

I took an Ecology of Place course last spring term where we learned a lot about the new technologies and evolutions in the agricultural world contributing to our abilities to feed the growing populations. For example I gained further insights into GMO's and their ability to provide sufficient amount of crops/food for the foreseeable future. This then leads me to believe governments in poor countries should not discount the importance of farmland/agriculture- because many of the poverty stricken are still in this sector and as a society we still depend on them. Therefore, it is imperative to empower these citizens to learn more about their craft and increase their knowledge/skillset so as to encourage that entrepreneurial attitude.

This also ties into the malaria article in the sense that higher income countries must aid in this fight for the good of everyone. Poverty and malaria are strongly correlated. While other factors are certainly involved, the fact that poor people in tropic zones have to deal with this disease on a daily basis severely inhibits their ability to development. As we have learned- once sustenance needs are met only then can people focus on "being agents of their own change" and improving their quality of life.

Ella Rose

In “The Economics of Being Poor” I was really fascinated by the interplay between well-being and economic incentives. I had never thought that using economic incentives could be a real tool for increasing well-being. For example, the idea that longer life-spans, something that seems intrinsically valuable, could also increase economic incentives is really interesting. No one needs to convince me that longer lives are better. They are better just because they allow people to achieve more and enjoy their friends and family more. But his article added a huge new dimension to that increasing life expectancy just for its intrinsic value. It also creates economic incentives for investing in one's life and other people's lives because there is more room for a return to those investments. Longer lives lead to better lives. This reminded me of what Sen was talking about in Development As Freedom. Long lives are intrinsically valuable, in that they are ends in themselves, but there are also means to other things. In this case, they are means to economic incentives.

I think a lot of times people are motivated to help the “less fortunate” simply because what they are doing will cause immediate happiness. Curing cancer or giving out mosquito nets are both good things. But, it is important to remember the economic incentives that follow what you have done. It may even be the most important question you ask because incentives are the only thing you really leave behind. What does giving hand out create an incentive for? What does a micro-financing create an incentive for? Both of those strategies have been employed by various non-profits, and I think they leave very different incentive structures behind in the end.

This article really helped me examine the use of economic incentives and their power in developing countries. They are a huge tool that can be used for good or for bad.

Julia Mayol

Both papers are extremely rich in content. I must admit, that even though I have been exposed before to information such as “every 30 hours a woman in Argentina dies due to gender violence” it still shocked me to read that “every 40 seconds a child dies of malaria”. I think it is really interesting how malaria, as well as women empowerment, have a two-way direction relationship with poverty and economic development respectively. Poverty may promote malaria transmission, as well as malaria may cause poverty by impeding economic growth. In like manner, we learnt that economic development may lead to women empowerment and, on the opposite direction, women empowerment can lead to economic growth. In the same way as it happens with women empowerment, economic development alone is not enough. “Even relatively wealthy countries with high year-round temperatures, such as Oman and the United Arab Emirates, have been unable to eliminate the disease.”
What is also interesting, is how malaria seems to have an effect in human capital, even thought that field seems to be somehow unexplored. This leads us to the second paper, which talks about the relevance of human capital. I believe the most relevant aspect from the paper, is the fact that it considers capital homogeneity assumption absurd.
What I also found interesting from this second paper is something we kind of went through before when we read “The Economics lives of the poor” and is how sometimes ones tend to judge poor people, as irrational or careless, because when they have increase in income they tend to spend that in festivals, or alcohol instead of buying more food, for example. But what we are forgetting here, as Theodore W. Schultz, Sir Arthur Lewis, is that poor people are no less concerned about improving their lot and that of their children than rich people are, but in the end they are still humans. I really like how the authors also vindicate the people who own less by showing how they care about their future, the have an entrepreneurship attitude and they are also smart. However, their main problem is their lack of access to different things such as education, health, credit, markets, among others. Which shows evidence of the importance of this factors in contributing to human capital, such as health and education, which end up having a great impact on economic growth.

Matt Parker

When reading Malaney and Shchultz's pieces in tandem, one can not help but feel a sense of helplessness. These sub-saharan countries are stricken by a disease that keeps them in a cycle of poverty. These countries often have weak state institutions that make it near impossible to implement effective public health/education policies, and as Esther Duflo pointed out in the video we watched in class, our foreign aid might be ineffective in combating these countries' serious problems. Duflo however did talk about approaching some of these problems (malaria net use, vaccinations, etc) in a behavioral economic context using research and control groups to identify effective incentives. I do believe that with this kind of research, we can start to alleviate some of the more serious problems. I also believe that it is foreign technology that might end up being more useful than foreign monetary aid. As Schultz so aptly claims, our future as a collective species will be determined by our "intelligent evolution of humanity."
One such example of this intelligent evolution was an article I read not too long ago about the development of a GMO mosquito that was bred specifically to target Zika carrying mosquitoes and kill them. http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/07/health/zika-florida-gmo-mosquito/
It is ingenuity such as this that I think will contribute most to the elimination of malaria. Once this disease is mitigated, women might be more empowered instead of being confined to child rearing, children will be healthier and can attend more school, and then we might finally see these economies start to develop. Once this development occurs and the economy grows, we often see a push for more stable state institutions which will serve to reinforce this development. It is just so interesting and devastating that this one disease could be the barrier holding back millions from breaking the cycle of poverty.


After reading the article I was really taken back by the overwhelming effects that malaria had on developing nations that I didn't think about. Rather than thinking about just the direct cost of the illness in treatment and prevention I was blown away by how much more off an impact the disease had in creating a poverty trap for low income households due to their increased likelihood for infection in the areas where poverty is concentrated. Although I assumed malaria was a major problem i severely underestimated the mortality rate that the disease posses which helped me overlook the effects that malaria would have on families in poverty, especially when it came to children. The high infant mortality rate caused by malaria would definitely be a strong link to the high fertility rates in order to ensure that a certain number of children survived. By overlooking the increased fertility rates I also overlooked malaria causing inflated population growth rates due to risk averse families and reduced investment in the human capital in children in areas with high infection rates for malaria. These costs seem somewhat obvious in retrospect compared to the damage malaria can do to cognitive development, learning, fetal development, and behavioral problems that can also appear. The article really helped me realize the widespread effects that Malaria can cause in developing nations and how it can really help perpetuate a cycle of poverty by damaging human capital and investment in alarming ways.

Allie Barry

In reading The Economic and Social Burden of Malaria, I could not help but try to imagine what it would be like living in a country which is so plagued by a disease like this and the fear that one would live in on a day to day basis. In thinking further about this, I thought of the recent spread of Zika virus and how this has been spread all over the media as a crisis for the region. Not only does this disease have direct health effects for the people living there, but it is also causing uncertainty about the future of the tourism industry and the overall economy for investors. Zika is just another example of how a disease can impact a country or region so greatly preventing them from economically growing or developing in general. In The Economics of Being Poor I thought further about the difference between how the media and the U.S. are looking at Zika differently from Malaria. He ends the paper saying that we, the high income countries have forgotten that “Knowledge is the most powerful engine of production; it enables us to subdue Nature and satisfy our wants.” Although this quote was uplifting, it made me realize how “our want”, the want of the high income countries, is driving how developing countries develop. Since the Caribbean is a popular tourist destination for us in the U.S., we feel immediately compelled to face the crisis and try to assist the countries to battle this, but are we putting forth this same effort and urgency when it comes to Malaria? Maybe we are, and maybe we are not, but it is a scary realization that the high income country’s “wants” could have such a great impact on the future of these developing countries in choosing what diseases they need to prevent the most.

Crosby Ellinger

In "The Economic and Social Burden of Malaria" and "The Economics of Being Poor" one thing is touched on significantly: the health of the population. So far in this class, we have learned about different theories and approaches to improving the well-being standard of living and quality of life of the populations in developing countries as a means of development. I believe that the health of the population is one of the single most important factors in improving human capital, health, and overall development in most developing countries today.

Last year, I took "Human Economics in Developing Countries" course with Professor Blunch. In that class, I was amazed to learn about all of the health concerns, especially in Africa, that developing countries face in everyday life that hinder development. For example, this paper harps on the effects of Malaria and the burden it has, but additionally, infections and parasites, TB, Hepatitis, dysetary, porr drinking water, and many other issues effect the health of many children and adults in developing countries.

This is a significant issue because it not only results in poor health, but causes many people to miss out on important years of schooling, miss work, and not be able to contribute or learn as much due to poor health. This has a significant effect on both human capital and overall productivity of the population.

I believe that tackling health issues really is a fundamental step in improving the lives of the poor in developing countries as well as improving and developing the economy. At worst, tackling these issues results in a better standard of living and better health for the poor population. At best, health is improved, which results in higher school attendance, higher human capital, more productive workers, more output, more investment, etc. that can drive an economy of a developing country upwards.

Health issues such as malaria are a major concern for developing countries and have huge social and economic burdens. Tackling these issues would be a major step forward for these countries and these people.

Spencer Payne

The two statements that I found most profound in “The Economics of Being Poor” are that

I. Poor people are no less concerned about improving their lot and that of their children than rich people are, and

II. Standard economic theory is just as applicable to scarcity problems that confront low income countries as to the corresponding problems of high income countries.

As Americans, we sometimes have this feeling that those living in serious poverty are drastically different from us — that they are neither as intelligent nor as motivated to a good life for their families. And we would be wrong. Sure, this lecture acknowledges that those in poor areas face steeper challenges than those in wealthier areas, but it also demonstrates how developing active policies (like Sen suggests) will, in time, facilitate conditions that will allow the disadvantaged to prosper.

It was refreshing to learn that those living in poverty have the intellect and the ambition to improve their lives — that they want, in political jargon, a hand up not a hand out. And it was comforting to discover that spurring economic growth does not necessitate the generation of a new model. Reading this piece gave me hope for the future of developing countries. Therefore, it is now my sincere hope that steps are taken to ensure that education is attained, crops are produced, and health is achieved at their respective socially optimal levels.

I would also argue that enacting policy that increases human health should be of first priority, though I guess no one asked me.

Cara Hayes

Going back to our discussion of the endogenous cycle of income and health, it is clear that alleviating impoverished people from the burden of malaria would produce huge economic results. In the malaria piece, the authors write that, “Suppressing malaria in poor, highly malarious regions, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, offers the potential to initiate a virtuous cycle in which improved health spurs economic growth, and rising income further benefits human health.” Schultz also speaks to this point, saying that improving population quality through investments in health and education. I found Schultz approach to improving population quality to be very interesting. He says to treat quality as a scarce resource, which implies that it as an economic value and acquiring it comes at a cost. When returns to quality exceed the cost, the population will have been improved.

It was shocking to me that there are one to three million deaths a year due to malaria and that majority of these are children. Because this article was written in 2002, I wanted to see if the malaria’s affect was still as deadly today. According to UNICEF, the malaria mortality rate has fallen 60% from 2000 to 2015 and, in 2015, 438,000 people died of the disease. While the effect of malaria is still way too large considering it is a preventable and treatable disease, this is still a tremendous progress. It would be interesting to examine this improvement in Schultz’s population quality framework. By providing treatment for and preventative measures of malaria, human capital in these malaria endemic countries has increased through health improvements. The cost of acquiring these improvements may be increased government investment or foreign aid. Either way, the benefits of eradicating malaria clearly outweigh the costs.

Jillian Leigh

After reading Theodore Schultz's Nobel prize speech it made me wonder why governments aren't focusing on improving human capital. Schultz gave this speech in 1979 and in class on Tuesday, 37 years later, we are still discussing how focusing on improving human capital is an effective way to improve the lives of people living in poverty. In class we discussed the Educational Production Function and the returns to education, Schultz also mentions the investment in education. This reminded me of a program that my mom and I got involved with in high school called the Red Sweater Project. The goal of the Red Sweater Project is to create affordable, accessible and advanced educational opportunities for children in rural Tanzania. Their mission is to put as many children in red sweaters as possible to readily equip them with adequate skills for the work force, directly combating the cycle of extreme poverty. Directly above their mission in bold it also states, "Research has also proven that secondary school training for girls in the developing world has a higher return on investment than any other effort." I found this interesting because Schultz also makes a comment on women's empowerment in connection to economic development, which all connects back to what we had discussed two weeks ago in class. Looking back at the discussions we've had in class it's very clear to me that investing in women's empowerment is an easy way to jumpstart and sustain economic development. I understand that I am not an economist or a policy maker, but after the past few weeks of class I can't comprehend why policy makers aren't taking advantage of this. I understand that women have always been treated as less than men, but that idea needs to be put aside because there is clear evidence that women's empowerment leads to economic development.

Rachel Baer

After reading “The Economics of Being Poor” and “The Economic and Social Burden of Malaria”, I feel more informed on the impacts of health on economic growth and development. While we have discussed many times in class how health is one of the main indicators of economic development and improving the well-being of those living in poverty, I had not really considered both the micro and macro effects that health has on an economy as a whole. While the economic and financial burdens of wide spread disease might seem obvious, it is also helpful to consider the social and cultural impacts of widespread disease, as is discusses in Sachs’ article on malaria.

I also thought it was interesting to read more about the role of agriculture in economic development. We have discussed how in many poor, rural areas of the world, farming in what many people do for a living. And while this is the case, there are often situations of inefficiency on these farms. In Schultz's article, when describing how human capital in agriculture is shaped by new opportunities and incentives, Schultz explains how “these incentives are greatly distorted in many low income countries” This reminds me of our discussion of efficiency in farming. It makes me wonder, is there is something that the government can do to provide more incentives for farmers to be more productive by reducing the risk of loosing a harvest? There are different dimensions to solving this issue. One aspect that makes this problem of inefficiency is cultural and social norms. In the reading from a few weeks ago about women’s agency and empowerment, I remember reading a section about men’s and women’s ownership of land, and how women would rent portions of their to their husbands in order to avoid working with them, causing inefficiency. This leads me to believe that, while government policy might be useful in increasing the incentive to be efficient in some poor countries, certain social norms might prohibit these policies from being effective. This also leads me to believe that perhaps increasing women's agency and empowerment in the cultural and social setting could be part of the solution to this problem of inefficiency and spur economic growth.

Lilly Grella

At the economic valuation conference on Saturday, Sahotra Sarkar in his talk spoke on the issue of Malaria and mosquito exposure. His talk supported just about all of what the Nature article, but he focused on new technologies that can reduce malaria’s presence, specifically on one called Gene Drive. They are able to genetically alter the female chromosomes in order to push specific traits to the next generation of the animal. In the case of mosquitos, they alter one X chromosome to force the next generation to be more likely a female and the other X chromosome to resist malaria causing parasites. Over the short run, the entire species will be more likely female and less malaria infected mosquitos. According to Sarkar, in little over a year mosquitos can be entirely wiped out.
On one hand it seems like this would be a huge benefit to the people of the world. The Nature article would apparently agree as it analyzes the huge impacts malaria has on poverty stricken nations and people experiencing poverty. Even though it is true this may alleviate some issues, I am skeptical as to whether this measure to combatting malaria should take place ethically. While the gene drive researchers claim there will be no negative effects on any other species, I still have unanswered questions. If it is successful with mosquitos, would there be anything stopping the scientists from manipulating other species in the same manner? Even further, who gets to determine which species gets to say and which must go? There are organizations (like the National Wildlife Fund or the World Wildlife Fund) that work to stop exactly what this technology is there to do. It seems as though on the surface this new technology can be useful to solve some of the issues mentioned in the Nature article, but I am skeptical to whether it should actually be implemented.

Tanpreet Hunjan

When reading Schulz’ paper Sen’s paper on food and freedom was at the forefront of my mind. Sen states that “a public distribution system geared to the needs of the vulnerable sections of the community can bring the essentials of livelihood within easy reach of people whose lives may remain otherwise relatively untouched by the progress of real national income”. Growth is important to economic development but providing positive freedoms such as welfare is paramount in creating effective development. As we can see from various countries like India and China growth can be rapid and incredible for many citizens but the benefits of this growth is rarely available to every citizen. Social stratification, among other factors, ingrains inequality into communities. Positive freedoms that governments can offer such as investment into healthcare are able to abolish life-threatening diseases like Malaria which is crucial to a developing countries ability to grow.
Schulz’ belief in treating quality as a scarce resource, “applying economic value to quality” is interesting. “When returns to quality exceed the cost, the population will have been improved.” In Seema and Lleras-Muney’s, “Life Expectancy and Human Capital Investments: Evidence From Maternal Mortality Declines”, human capital is responsive to longevity with the elasticity of literacy with respect to life expectancy 0.6 – 1 extra year of life = 0.12 to 0.15 more years of schooling. The returns to education for women led to labor market returns of 7% (Psacharapoulos 1994). An increase in female education can spur economic growth through improving the quality in productive human capital. This reading from my South Asian Economics class shows the weight that the returns to quality bring to society. The virtuous cycle of one factor such as a decline in MMR can have such diverse impacts on literacy and labour markets that they cannot be ignored by government and policy makers.

Thomas Thagard

The most important take away from these two readings is the importance of human capital within a country. Both Schultz’s lecture and “the economic and social burden of malaria” harp on the importance of health and education; however, they do so in different ways. Schultz discusses the ways that the poor live their lives and what the government can do to encourage the expansion of human capital. Conversely, Sachs and Malaney focus on the impact of malaria in regard to human capital. Sachs and Malaney discuss the high birth mortality and the neurological effects that malaria can have within a country. In this article, the authors presented a map of where malaria flourishes and where it used to flourish. This included the United States up until 1946, specifically in the Deep South. Having grown up in Alabama, I have a first hand experience of the long-term effects of malaria. Arguably, the human capital in Alabama is one of the worst in the United States, especially in the backwoods areas. I have spent a lot of time in the swamps and cotton fields of Alabama, and I have heard plenty of stories from my grandparents about the malaria pits of old. I know there are many other factors that have affected the human capital of the Deep South; however, I do wonder how much malaria played a part.

Matthew Jones

Shultz's Nobel Prize lecture only reemphasized the importance of state led intervention programs. This became especially apparent with the discussion of fertile and infertile regions in Africa, in reference to how Schultz noted that even fertile regions along the Nile river remained as unproductive as those that were infertile as well. The low levels in output can thus be explained be low levels of human capital. Here the state must be responsible for facilitating an increase in output by improving the health and knowledge of its own population. Perhaps improved access to credit markets or other government measures through improved roadways , education, and healthcare is the missing link in improved production. However, this cannot be limited to farming, but instead must be generalized for all of society. Looking at women in society, the overall production of an economy is perhaps lower than it could be as well. Here we have a great resource that is often not best utilized. Like the fertile farmland the missing link in utilizing the resource is government led intervention. Empowering women would correspondingly generate a greater output and productivity overall in an economy.

Sen's discussion capabilities in the context of development being more important that pure economic growth is reinforced by Sachs' article on malaria. Malaria inhibits a person's full capabilities, making it impossible for development. Sen argues that it is the role of the state to reduce un-freedoms in society. When a society is shackled by development, one could argue that malaria is an "un-freedom." People are unable to live the lives they would choose to live in normal conditions. Thus, it becomes the role of the state to allow people to live as they would like to if they did not have malaria. Working to eliminate malaria is just a single example of the many ways the state can work to eliminate "un-freedoms" that hinder the full capabilities of a society. Eliminating these un-freedoms are the key to improving the output and productivity of a society by allowing it to reach its maximum level of human capital.


After reading both articles, I found them very interesting as they incorporated a lot of the things we have covered in class. Things being functions in and of themselves (interrelatedness between malaria and poverty) and improved economic development through improved human capital, gender equality, health, and education. One thing that struck me, which we touched on in class, was the idea that land is fixed and cannot sustain our growing population. This matter has also been brought up in my environmental studies class. It is an interesting view because, at least in my env. studies class, the students who seemed more keen or passionate about the environment all had the same view that our population was growing too fast to sustain. But does that make sense? In class we discovered that developed countries contain 25% of the population and use 75% of the world’s resources. If most of the people in the world are poor, then the majority of the world only uses 25% of the world’s resources. And if low income families tend to have more children than high income families, then clearly population isn’t the issue. Furthermore, in terms of technology, a common trend I have seen throughout history is this: once a new form of technology is introduced to create efficiency, we adapt it, become dependent on it, and then get rid of some lesser technology that it replaced. The easiest example to provide is cell phones. 20 years ago they didn’t exist. Now, in our society at least, we are completely dependent upon them. With this in mind, we are clearly dependent on our agricultural system. It definitely comes with its problems, but we can’t get rid of the system just yet. What I liked in Schultz’s paper is that he said we must now innovate and come up with new technology to reduce the cost of our current agricultural system. Through research we can discover substitutes for cropland so that we lessen our dependence on it. But this comes with another problem. The government. If it is so clear that there comes such a huge cost to our current agricultural system, why have they done nothing about it? According to Schultz, it is due to politics. Schultz states that “The political influence of urban consumers and industry enables them to exact cheap food at the expense of the vast number of poor rural people.” This reminded me of a question that I have asked myself many times. Why is it that the people who provide us with food, a necessity for survival, have their product devalued vs. products that are essentially luxury goods?

Jack Miller

Walker Tiller

Reading the article The Economics of Being Poor was very interesting, as it showed the poor have very similar intentions to those that are more well-to-do. They seek to optimize what resources they have and what income they receive as well as provide for their children and seek to provide a better life for their kids than they had. This wasn't a surprising conclusion for me as it seems like that stems from basic human nature to strive for the best. However this made me think about why the poor remain poor if they strive to leave poverty. There is a cyclic nature to being poor that is very hard to escape without a windfall or help from an outside source. So I thought that one thing that must change to help the poor is the outside institutions (or lack there of) in many of these nations. The article mentioned the increasing numbers of skilled workers and professionals and I think this is a great way for individuals to begin providing a better life for their familes through skilled professions instead of (Or in addition to) farming. With a nation providing schools and classes to teach the skilled professions to poor families then it could be one of the many ways to slowly pull these individuals out of poverty.

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