Three Essays in Economic Development, Growth, and Trade

Alvin Lun-Yue Chiang, Florida International University


This dissertation is composed of three essays and analyzes the effects of both health outcomes and international trade on economic development and growth. In the first chapter, I develop a theoretical model using a Nelson-Phelps framework in order to establish a causal relationship between health outcomes and economic growth. I also econometrically test this approach to quantify the magnitude of the effects observed. Using the international epidemiological transition as a baseline and instrumental variable regression, I find that both life expectancy growth rates and initial levels of life expectancy are the main drivers of economic growth, and improvements in both indicators lead to significant, positive changes in the income per-capita growth rate. In the second chapter, I design an overlapping generations model that showcases how individuals determine their optimal fertility, education, labor supply, and life-cycle consumption decisions under uncertain survival probabilities. Under partial equilibrium, exogenous shocks in mortality lead to explicit changes in economic growth and development through the above mechanisms, but under general equilibrium, predictions are ambiguous due to offsetting substitution and income effects. I complement the theory with an empirical analysis, constructing age-specific birth rates, age-specific death rates, and life expectancies from the Demographic and Health Surveys in 36 Sub-Saharan African countries. Using system-GMM estimation, the results show that improvements in health will have a positive and statistically significant impact on economic growth and development. In the third chapter, I develop an analysis similar to Hausmann, Hwang, and Rodrik (2007), whose main argument is that what countries export has significant predicting power on its economic growth and development. Giving greater transparency to both the data collection and the empirical methodology, I replicate their research and instead use imports as a robustness check. The results confirm previous studies and shows that exports, not imports, matter for economic growth. Thus, we conclude that the type and quality of goods in which a country specializes and exports is directly related to its subsequent economic performance.

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Recommended Citation

Chiang, Alvin Lun-Yue, "Three Essays in Economic Development, Growth, and Trade" (2017). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI10747040.