Traditional Leaders and the 2014-2015 Ebola Epidemic

Forthcoming in Journal of Politics

32 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2020

See all articles by Peter Van der Windt

Peter Van der Windt

New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi

Maarten Voors

Wageningen UR

Date Written: June 25, 2019


We assess the role of traditional authorities during an acute health crisis, the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone. We exploit plausible exogenous variation in the political competition for local chieftaincy positions and find evidence that traditional leaders helped shape the course of the epidemic. Locations with more “powerful” chiefs experienced substantially fewer recorded Ebola cases. We argue that this result is consistent with a view of traditional authorities as ‘stationary bandits’, where leaders are locally embedded and thus benefited directly from controlling the spread of the disease. Subsequently, control measures were most effectively implemented by more powerful chiefs.

Keywords: Traditional Authority, Ebola Virus Disease, Sierra Leone, Elite Control

JEL Classification: I12

Suggested Citation

Van der Windt, Peter and Voors, Maarten, Traditional Leaders and the 2014-2015 Ebola Epidemic (June 25, 2019). Forthcoming in Journal of Politics, Available at SSRN:

Peter Van der Windt (Contact Author)

New York University (NYU) - New York University Abu Dhabi ( email )

Abu Dhabi
United Arab Emirates

Maarten Voors

Wageningen UR ( email )

Hollandseweg 1
Wageningen, 6706KN

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