Monday, January 14, 2008

Economists sought in North Queensland?

Olivier Deschenes & Enrico Moretti in an NBER Working Paper estimate that 8-15% of the improved life expectancy in the US over the last 30 years is due to people moving to live in warmer states. Moreover, those who make the move are more likely to be those who gain benefits from the move.

Here is the abstract of the Deschenes-Moretti paper:

We estimate the effect of extreme weather on life expectancy in the US. Using high frequency mortality data, we find that both extreme heat and extreme cold result in immediate increases in mortality. However, the increase in mortality following extreme heat appears entirely driven by temporal displacement, while the increase in mortality following extreme cold is long lasting. The aggregate effect of cold on mortality is quantitatively large. We estimate that the number of annual deaths attributable to cold temperature is 27,940 or 1.3% of total deaths in the US. This effect is even larger in low income areas. Because the US population has been moving from cold Northeastern states to the warmer Southwestern states, our findings have implications for understanding the causes of long-term increases in life expectancy. We calculate that every year, 5,400 deaths are delayed by changes in exposure to cold temperature induced by mobility. These longevity gains associated with long term trends in geographical mobility account for 8%-15% of the total gains in life expectancy experienced by the US population over the past 30 years. Thus mobility is an important but previously overlooked determinant of increased longevity in the US. We also find that the probability of moving to a state that has fewer days of extreme cold is higher for the age groups that are predicted to benefit more in terms of lower mortality compared to the age groups that are predicted to benefit less.

Incidentally, a modest Melbourne economist of my acquaintance is seeking relief in the face of the forthcoming 2008 Melbourne winter. Townsville or Cairns would be nice! Offers can be posted here.

Hat tip: Greg Mankiw

1 comment:

Spiros said...

I'll bet the gains to life expectancy in the US from people moving to warmer states wouldn't have happened if air conditioning hadn't been invented.

And you may think Melbourne is cold, but it isn't Minneapolis, where 40 degrees below zero is not uncommon in the winter.