Economic development typically coincides with better health outcomes due to increased access to medical facilities, improved sanitation and public services as well as higher standards of living from additional income and nutrition. For countries undergoing rapid industrialization, however, the relationship may be ambiguous given urbanization and industrial work environments. This paper explores the relationship between the spread of industrialization via railroad expansion and mortality patterns across regions in Japan at the turn of the twentieth century. After controlling for local provision of medical services, industrial development, and urbanization, I find that rail access is associated with higher mortality rates, particularly for respiratory diseases and less urbanized areas. These results indicate divergent impacts on health outcomes from the interactions of industrial development and regional differences and highlight the importance of disaggregated data.
Dr John Tang is Senior Lecturer at the ANU College of Business and Economics, The Australian National University. He received his PhD in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests include economic history, economic development and growth, and international economics and international finance.
Image by George Lane on Flickr under the CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.