October 2019

IZA DP No. 12680: Untimely Destruction: Pestilence, War and Accumulation in the Long Run

Clive Bell, Hans Gersbach, Evgenij Komarov

This paper analyses the effects of disease and war on the accumulation of human and physical capital. We employ an overlapping-generations frame-work in which young adults, confronted with such hazards and motivated by old-age provision and altruism, make decisions about investments in schooling and reproducible capital. A poverty trap exists for a wide range of stationary war losses and premature adult mortality. If parents are altruistic and their sub-utility function for own consumption is more concave than that for the children's human capital, the only possible steady-state growth path involves full education. Otherwise, steady-state paths with incompletely educated children may exist, some of them stationary ones. We also examine, analytically and with numerical examples, a growing economy's robustness in a stochastic environment. The initial boundary conditions have a strong influence on outcomes in response to a limited sequence of destructive shocks.