This paper empirically tests the association between genetically determined resistance to infectious disease and cross-country health differences. A country-level measure of genetic diversity for the system of genes associated with the recognition and disposal of foreign pathogens is constructed. Genetic diversity within this system has been shown to reduce the virulence and prevalence of infectious diseases and is hypothesized to have been naturally selected from historical exposure to infectious pathogens. Base estimation shows a statistically strong, robust, and positive relationship between this constructed measure and country-level health outcomes in times prior to, but not after, the international epidemiological transition.

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