Although the term human capital usually refers to education, it can also be used to describe another type of investment in people: expenditures that lead to a healthier population. Other things equal workers are more productive. Making the right investments in the health of the population is one way for a nation to increase productivity and raise living standards. Economic historian Robert Fogel has suggested that a significant factor in long-run economic growth is improved health from better nutrition. He estimates that in Great Britain in 1780, about one in five.people were so malnourished that they were incapable of manual labor. Among those who could work insufficient caloric intake substantially reduced the work effort they could put forth. As nutrition unproved, so did workers’ productivity Fogel studies these historical trends in part by looking at the height of the population. Short height can be an indicator of malnutrition, especially during pregnancy and the early years of life. Fogel finds that as
nations develop economically, people eat more, and the population gets taller. From 1775 to 1975, the average caloric intake in Great Britain rose by 26 percent, and the height of the average man rose by 3.6 inches. Similarly, during the spectacular economic growth in South Korea from 1962 to 1995 caloriceonsumption rose by 44 percent, and average  male height rose by 2 inches. Of course, a person’s height is determined by a combination of genetic predisposition and environment. But because the genetic makeup of a population is slow to change, such increases in average height are most likely due to changes in the environment-nutrition being the obvious explanation Moreover, studies have found that height is an indicator of productivity. Looking at data on a large number of workers at a point in time, researchers have found that taller workers tend to earn more Because wages reflect a worker’s productivity, this finding suggests that taller workers tend to be more productive  The effect of height on wages is especially pronounced in poorer countries where malnutrition is a bigger risk.

Fogel won the Nobel prize in economics in 1993 for his work in economic history, which includes non only his studies of nutrition but also his studies of American slavery and the role of railroads in the development of the American economy. In the lecture he gave when he was awarded the prize, he surveyed the evidence on health and economic growth. He concluded that “improved gross nutrition accounts roughly 30 percent of the growth of per capital income in Britain between 1790 and 1980 Today, malnutrition is fortunately rare in developed nations such as Great Britain and the United Stat (Obesity is a more widespread problem.) But for people in developing nations, poor health and inadequate nutrition remain obstacles to higher productivity and improved living standards. The United Nations recently estimated that almost a third of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished The causal link between health and wealth runs in both directions. Poor countries are poor in part because their populations are not healthy, and their populations are not healthy in part because they are poor and cannot afford adequate healthcare and nutrition. It is a vicious circle. But this fact opens the possibility of a virtuous circle: Policies that lead to more rapid economic growth would naturally health outcomes, which in turn would further promote economic growth.

[av_button label='Get Any Economics Assignment Solved for US$ 55' link='manually,' link_target='' color='red' custom_bg='#444444' custom_font='#ffffff' size='large' position='center' icon_select='yes' icon='ue859' font='entypo-fontello']

Share This