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American Economic Journal: Applied Economics: Vol. 2 No. 2 (April 2010)

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Modern Medicine and the Twentieth Century Decline in Mortality: Evidence on the Impact of Sulfa Drugs

Article Citation

Jayachandran, Seema, Adriana Lleras-Muney, and Kimberly V. Smith. 2010. "Modern Medicine and the Twentieth Century Decline in Mortality: Evidence on the Impact of Sulfa Drugs." American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 2(2): 118-46.

DOI: 10.1257/app.2.2.118

Abstract

This paper studies the contribution of sulfa drugs, a groundbreaking medical innovation in the 1930s, to declines in US mortality. For several infectious diseases, sulfa drugs represented the first effective treatment. Using time-series and difference-in-differences methods, we find that sulfa drugs led to a 24 to 36 percent decline in maternal mortality, 17 to 32 percent decline in pneumonia mortality, and 52 to 65 percent decline in scarlet fever mortality between 1937 and 1943. Altogether, sulfa drugs reduced mortality by 2 to 3 percent and increased life expectancy by 0.4 to 0.7 years. We also find that sulfa drugs benefited whites more than blacks. (JEL I12, L65, N32, N72)

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Authors

Jayachandran, Seema (Stanford U)
Lleras-Muney, Adriana (UCLA)
Smith, Kimberly V. (Mathematica Policy Research, Princeton, NJ)

JEL Classifications

I12: Health Production
L65: Chemicals; Rubber; Drugs; Biotechnology
N32: Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, and Religion: U.S.; Canada: 1913-
N72: Economic History: Transport, Trade, Energy, Technology, and Other Services: U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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