The Political Economy of Health Epidemics: Evidence from the Ebola Outbreak

66 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019 Last revised: 8 Nov 2019

See all articles by Elisa M. Maffioli

Elisa M. Maffioli

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Date Written: November 6, 2018

Abstract

This paper investigates how political incentives affect the government’s response during a health epidemic, and the subsequent effects on citizens’ voting behavior. Leveraging unique newly constructed data, I study this question in the context of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia. Building a spatio-temporal epidemiological model that estimates the ex-ante optimal allocation of relief efforts, I find that the government misallocates resources toward electoral swing villages affected by the epidemic. Voters, in turn, react by rewarding the incumbent government in areas where additional resources were diverted. I conclude by discussing the costs to citizens of such politically-driven resource misallocation.

Keywords: Health epidemics; political economy; misallocation; Ebola virus

JEL Classification: D61, D72, I15, H12, H51, P16

Suggested Citation

Maffioli, Elisa M., The Political Economy of Health Epidemics: Evidence from the Ebola Outbreak (November 6, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3383187 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3383187

Elisa M. Maffioli (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

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