The Political Economy of Health Epidemics: Evidence from the Ebola Outbreak
67 Pages Posted: 30 May 2019 Last revised: 16 Feb 2021
Date Written: February 2, 2021
This paper investigates whether political incentives affect the government’s response during a health epidemic and the subsequent effects on citizens’ voting behavior. Leveraging novel data, I study this question in the context of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia. The national incumbent government appropriately prioritized the allocation of resources to villages affected by the epidemic. By building a spatiotemporal epidemiological model that estimates the ex-ante optimal allocation of relief efforts, there is also evidence that resources were misallocated toward electoral swing villages. Instead, no resources were diverted toward core supporters or co-ethnic villages. Voters, in turn, reacted by rewarding the national incumbent party in areas where additional resources were misallocated.
Keywords: Health epidemics; political economy; misallocation; Ebola virus
JEL Classification: D61, D72, I15, H12, H51, P16
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