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Economic complexity and health outcomes: A global perspective

Vu, Trung V. (2020): Economic complexity and health outcomes: A global perspective.


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Does a country’s economic structure matter for health outcomes? This study, for the first time, examines the extent to which the mix of products a country produces and exports affects population health. For this purpose, I employ the Economic Complexity index (ECI) that relies on the sophistication of export bundles to extract information on the availability of productive capabilities within an economy. Using unbalanced panel data for up to 112 countries covering the period from 1970 to 2015, I find that countries exporting complex products have better health status than countries whose economic structure is mainly based on unsophisticated goods. To account for endogeneity concerns, I exploit regional averages of ECI in neighbouring countries to isolate the plausibly exogenous component of complexity that helps achieve a causal interpretation. The results lend credence to the main proposition that increased ECI is associated with health improvements. The main findings offers several implications for designing health and industrial development policies.

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