Where has democracy helped the poor? Democratic transitions and early-life mortality at the country level.


  • Antonio Pedro Ramos
  • Martiniano Jose Flores
  • Michael Ross
Keywords: Democratization; Child, Infant and Neonatal Mortality; Social Determinants of Health; Bayesian hierearchical models.


The effects of democracy on living conditions among the poor are disputed. Previous studies have addressed this question by estimating the average effect of democracy on early-life mortality across all countries. We revisit this debate using a research design that distinguishes between the aggregated effects of democracy across all countries and their individual effects within countries. Using Interrupted Time Series methodology
and estimating model parameters in a Bayesian framework, we find the average effect of democracy on early-life mortality to be close to zero, but with considerable variation at the country-level. Democratization was followed by fewer child deaths in 21 countries, an increase in deaths in eight, and no measurable changes in the remaining 32 cases. Transitions were usually benecial in Europe, neutral or benecial in Africa and Asia, and neutral or harmful in Latin America. The distribution of country-level effects is not consistent with common arguments about the conditional effects of democratic transitions. Our results open a new line of research into the sources of theses heterogeneous effects.


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