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World Politics

Vol. 63, No. 4

October 2011

The Impact of Regime Type on Health:
Does Redistribution Explain Everything?
By Simon Wigley and Arzu Akkoyunlu-Wigley
Many scholars claim that democracy improves population health. The prevailing explanation for this is that democratic regimes distribute health-promoting resources more widely than autocratic regimes. The central contention of this article is that democracies also have a significant pro-health effect regardless of public redistributive policies. After establishing the theoretical plausibility of the nondistributive effect, a panel of 153 countries for the years 1972 to 2000 is used to examine the relationship between extent of democratic experience and life expectancy. The authors find that democratic governance continues to have a salutary effect on population health even when controls are introduced for the distribution of health-enhancing resources. Data for fifty autocratic countries for the years 1994 to 2007 is then used to examine whether media freedom—independent of government responsiveness—has a positive impact on life expectancy.

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