Democracy, Dictatorship, and Infant Mortality

Thomas D. Zweifel, Patricio Navia
2000 Journal of Democracy  
The effect of economic development in reducing hunger is widely known, but what is the effect of a country's political regime on the basic welfare of its inhabitants? Does it matter whether that country has an authoritarian or a democratic regime? The answer is yes. Any randomly selected country's regime, regardless of its level of development, matters for its social performance. Fewer children die in democracies than in dictatorships. The infant mortality rate is the indicator of chronic
more » ... or of chronic hunger most commonly used by policy makers and international organizations. In 138 countries observed annually over the period 1950-90, democracies showed markedly lower infant mortality rates than dictatorships. More importantly, at the same levels of development, and everything else being equal, a country's political regime had an independent effect on infant mortality. Democracy outperformed dictatorship at every level of per-capita GNP. It is well known that per-capita income is inversely correlated with hunger: the higher a country's per-capita GNP, the lower the number of hungry people in that country. But that is far from the whole story. Average per-capita income, for instance, can mask inequalities between rich and poor. Growth in per-capita income is a necessary but not a sufficient requirement for bringing about an end to chronic hunger. Additional factors are needed; one is a country's political regime. A political regime is the institutional framework in which decisions
doi:10.1353/jod.2000.0047 fatcat:si776tlep5c6pine7ubz4o4i3a