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Bar, Michael & Leukhina, Oksana (2010). The Role of Mortality in the Transmission of Knowledge. Journal of Economic Growth, 15(4), 291-321.


We investigate, both theoretically and quantitatively, a previously unexplored link between gains in adult mortality and productivity growth. Our mechanism allocates a central role to individuals as carriers of useful ideas and to personal contact as an important means of transferring these ideas. It thus implies that disrupting a human life impedes the process of knowledge transmission across time. We derive a simple and intuitive form of the dependence of aggregate knowledge transfer on adult mortality and incorporate it into a model of endogenous growth. We then quantitatively examine the relevance of the proposed link in application to the long-run growth experience of England. Our calibration exercise suggests that the reduction in adult mortality, by improving knowledge transmission across time and encouraging more innovation, was a quantitatively important force behind the takeoff in output per capita.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Journal of Economic Growth


Bar, Michael
Leukhina, Oksana