Political Economy of Wellbeing: Liberalization and Infant Mortality in Southeast Africa, 1985-2005


The IMF and the World Bank advocated two political-economic policies that incited a conspicuous institutional makeover in sub-Saharan Africa. These neoliberal policies are Structural Adjustment Programs (economic liberalization) and transitions from single-party regimes to pluralist-cum-liberal systems (political liberalization). Even though studies of the economic impact of liberalization abound, its effect on social wellbeing is yet to be ascertained. In fact, the reversal of development trajectories in Africa in the last two decades of the 20th C, the (neo)liberalization era, still baffles social scientists. This dissertation traces the association between liberalization and population health-measured by infant mortality risk— in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia. Contrary to the available literature, this dissertation considers the two liberalization initiatives as a combined policy stemming from a neoliberal interpretation of “good governance,” which eventually became development policy orthodoxy in the 1990s. <br/> <br/> Using population health as a site of study, this dissertation makes sense of recent anomalous development trajectories in Africa, and it underscores the potentially contradictory relationship between political and economic liberalization. This research, which is among the few to include “political economy variables” in demographic models, uses nationally-representative surveys of nearly 30,000 infants per country born between 1985 and 2005 merged with macro-level socioeconomic and foreign investments indicators. I conduct a quantitative-comparative analysis following the Nested Analysis Approach through which I examine key variables comparatively across strategically selected cases while paying attention to shifting levels of analysis. <br/> <br/> The analysis finds inconsistent associations between introduction of multipartism and health indicators at the aggregate level; moreover, whether a power switch from incumbents to opposition parties happened at the transition and the salience of ethnic cleavages in a given country determine within-country spatial inequality. However, later stages of economic liberalization are associated with improved health in post-socialist Tanzania and Zambia. In particular, the analysis finds a lower differential risk of infant mortality in Zambia, where democratization preceded marketization, relative to Tanzania, where the reverse sequencing took place. Finally, a detailed study of Tanzania demonstrates how particularistic local political economies, such as Tanzania’s Ujamaa na Kujitegemea pre-liberalization ethos, mediate global governance forces leading to path-dependent developmental paths. <br/>
Thesis (Ph.D. -- Brown University (2012)

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Herman, Moshi Optat, "Political Economy of Wellbeing: Liberalization and Infant Mortality in Southeast Africa, 1985-2005" (2012). Sociology Theses and Dissertations. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library. https://doi.org/10.7301/Z0B27SM3