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)
Jayachandran, Seema, Adriana Lleras-Muney, and Kimberly V. Smith.
"Modern Medicine and the Twentieth Century Decline in Mortality: Evidence on the Impact of Sulfa Drugs."
American Economic Journal: Applied Economics,
Chemicals; Rubber; Drugs; Biotechnology
Economic History: Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, and Religion: U.S.; Canada: 1913-
Economic History: Transport, Trade, Energy, Technology, and Other Services: U.S.; Canada: 1913-