The Political Economy of Health Epidemics: Evidence from the Ebola Outbreak
72 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019 Last revised: 24 Apr 2020
Date Written: November 6, 2018
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: Suggested Citation