Life expectancy in South Asia

India is very heterogeneous. Nevertheless, the contrast between Assam and Bangladesh is very curious to me.

1 Kerala 74.9 74.0
2 Delhi 73.2
3 Jammu and Kashmir 72.6
4 Uttarakhand 71.7 60.0
5 Himachal Pradesh 71.6 67.0
5 Punjab 71.6 69.4
5 Maharashtra 71.6 67.2
8 Tamil Nadu 70.6 66.2
9 West Bengal 70.2 64.9
10 Karnataka 68.8 65.3
11 Gujarat 68.7 64.1
12 Haryana 68.6 66.2
13 Andhra Pradesh (includes Telangana) 68.5 64.4
14 Bihar 68.1 61.6
* India 67.9 63.5
15 Rajasthan 67.7 62.0
16 Jharkhand 66.6 58.0
17 Odisha 65.8 59.6
18 Chhattisgarh 64.8 58.0
19 Madhya Pradesh 64.2 58.0
20 Uttar Pradesh 64.1 60.0
21 Assam 63.9 58.9

10 thoughts on “Life expectancy in South Asia”

  1. Bangladesh has has some very positive social indicators in recent years – literacy, infant mortality, now life expectancy. And, according to slapstik, even math! Exceeding its south Asian peers in many cases, improving faster in all cases. (Data from FRED). Better than West Bengal — only in some indicators, but that is still a triumph given east Bengal was always the backwards half.

    Any explanations for this recent Bangla-success?

    1. multicausal

      1) no geopolitical aspirations, less cost/trouble

      2) tolerable relations with both india & china

      3) ‘pro-business’ (wal-mart) climate has brought young women into labor market

      4) which helped trigger demographic transition

      5) NGOs have had an uneven but positive impact

      basically it’s a ‘normal’ country, albeit a poor one.

      1. Also, reportedly, if I have been reading correctly, big government-driven improvement in public hygiene, which has resulted in greatly reduced child mortality. This seems to be an area where Bangladesh has achieved a very big improvement relative to India. Could help to explain Assam, but I’m just guessing.

        1. Bangladesh has made great strides in social advancement.

          I think Bangladeshi civic nationalism is very strong; it seems a very integrated nation. A healthy intersection of a dominant language, national culture and a majority religion.

          It’s major divide seems to be political between the two parties; sad to see how Pakistan has messed up so badly.

          1. Agreed B’desh doing a lot better than Pakistan on health indicators and overall liberalisation, good on them

      2. You guys do recognize it’s probably the least economically liberalized country amongst the major 4 [Ind/Pak/SL/Ban], right?

        Funnily enough, it was the first to liberalize [economically] amongst the major 3 in SA, and then it jumped backwards. This pattern of starting trade liberalization and then ‘jumping back’ actually occurred for the big 3 countries for a while.

        The major difference is that BD concentrated [perhaps a bit too heavily] in certain industries [garments and light goods] for which it became a dominant player. Whereas Pakistan [for example] had a wider variety manufactured goods/services, however it was dominant in none. It’s resulted in more robust Y-O-Y growth in BD, whereas Pak tends to fluctuate.

        Going forward, BD will have to diversify though [to move to value-added instead of on the lower rung of the development ladder]. It’s been setting itself up nicely for electronics and light engineering type manufacturing, but it still needs the big infrastructure boost that all South Asian countries seem so anemic at [especially BD].

  2. Assuming the number on the left is more recent, West Bengal seems to be within 1% of Bangladesh. What are the error bars on these numbers?

    Is there a reason (besides assumptions of what makes a “normal country”) why you would expect Bangladesh’s numbers to be more similar to Assam than to West Bengal? If not, I don’t see any reason here to speculate about potential impacts of geopolitical aspirations and foreign relations.

  3. As for life expectancy, Bangladeshis are a hardy bunch. The sons of [mostly] peasant farmers in a semi-inhospitable tropical terrain that is regularly flooded and has experienced massive natural disaster and famine on/off for a while. It’s also why there is relatively little mortality in the large numbers of Bangladeshis overseas in the Gulf who work most of the DDD jobs.

    Tongue firmly in cheek, but it’s potentially plausible when you consider other things and the fact that I am rather dubious about the notion of “superior” Bangladeshi healthcare [even adjusted on a cost-per-outcome basis]. Those types of facilities suck in the country. Some cultural habits that improve health I could go along with. But there’s still quite a gulf between Bangladeshis and their “nearest and dearest”.

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