Political liberalization and human development: Dynamic Effects of Political Regime Change on Infant Mortality across Three Centuries (1800-2015)

Susumu Annaka, Masaaki Higashijima

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

It has been long debated among comparativists whether democratic states advance human development. By regressing infant mortality rates on a cumulative score of democracy, recent studies have suggested that a long tradition of democracy is of greater importance than the present degree of democracy to explain human development. This approach, however, faces several issues and also fails to pinpoint the effect of a democratic reform at a certain point in time on future human welfare. We argue that political liberalization encourages policymakers to adopt poverty-alleviating policies, but such a policy change is more likely to bear substantive fruit over the relatively long run. Using newly collected panel data on infant mortality rates from 1800 to 2015 from 172 countries, we test our theoretical expectations. Applying error correction models to this extensive time-series cross-sectional data, we find that political liberalization is more likely to increase equal access to public services immediately but that infant mortality rates are reduced in the long run. These results suggest that democratic reforms do have a positive effect on human welfare, but the effect might appear with a passage of time as well as shrinks over time. Our research implies that policymakers may need to make tireless investments in the advancement of political liberalization to continue improving human well-being in the developing world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105614
JournalWorld Development
Volume147
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Nov

Keywords

  • Democratization
  • Human development
  • Infant mortality
  • Political liberalization
  • Public goods provision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics

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