Does Democracy Reduce Infant Mortality? Evidence from New Data, for 181 Countries between 1970 and 2009
49 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2014
Date Written: 2013
Which form of government is most responsive to its citizens' needs? This paper focuses on child mortality to investigate the causal link between political regimes and welfare. I use a new data set that includes 181 countries between 1970 and 2008, with no missing observations and less measurement error than has been previously available. While new data suggests that democracies are associated with better health outcomes, it remains unclear whether this is due to a causal effect of regime type on health. I argue that the best way to detect the effects of democracy on child mortality is to investigate whether democratization episodes were followed by significant reductions in child mortality. Child mortality in most countries has declined in the last forty years. My results indicate that democratic transitions accelerate the downward trend in child mortality, especially in low income countries where mortality rates are typically high. Surprisingly, however, I also find that democratic transitions lead to short-term increases in child mortality for middle-income countries. This heterogeneity in the effects of democratic transitions has not been previously documented and calls for further research.
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