Malaria and Early African Development: Evidence from the Sickle Cell Trait
Emilio Depetris-Chauvin; David N. Weil
Documento de Trabajo IE-PUC, N° 472, 2015.
Abstract: We examine the effect of malaria on economic development in Africa over the very long run. Using data on the prevalence of the mutation that causes sickle cell disease, we measure the impact of malaria on mortality in Africa prior to the period in which formal data were collected. Our
estimate is that in the more afflicted regions, malaria lowered the probability of surviving to adulthood by about ten percentage points, which is
roughly twice the current burden of the disease. The reduction in malaria mortality has been roughly equal to the reduction in other causes of mortality. We then ask whether the estimated burden of malaria had an effect on economic development in the period before European contact. Using data at the ethnic group level, we find little evidence of a negative relationship between malaria burden and population density or other measures of development. We also construct a simple macro-demographic model to assess the expected effect of observed malaria mortality, and find that it to be small.