Evaluating natural resource amenities in a human life expectancy production function
This study examined the effect of natural resource amenities on human life expectancy. Extending the existing model of the life expectancy production function, and correcting for spatial dependence, we evaluated the determinants of life expectancy using county level data. Results indicate that after controlling for socio-demographic and economic factors, medical facilities and risk factors, counties with natural amenities such as high proportion of land in forests, farmland, rangeland and water bodies, as well as mild climate such as longer sunlight hours during winter and cooler year around temperature exhibited longer life expectancies at birth. In addition, counties containing state parks and outdoor recreation facilities, and those located near federal wilderness parks were associated with the longer expectancies at birth. Findings from this study have several implications for natural resource economics and management, public health, and human development. An important message of our findings is that the traditional approach of public health should be extended beyond just controlling diseases or treating patients to a more comprehensive approach that also acknowledges the preservation and utilization of natural resources, environmental amenities, and outdoor recreation opportunities in maintaining public health, quality of life, and overall human development.
Keywords: Life expectancy; Natural resource amenities; Spatial error model; Production function; Public health