Political and Social Correlates of Covid-19 Mortality

Do political and social features of states help explain the evolving distribution of reported Covid-19 deaths? We identify national-level political and social characteristics that past research suggests may help explain variation in a society's ability to respond to adverse shocks. We highlight four sets of arguments—focusing on (1) state capacity, (2) political institutions, (3) political priorities, and (4) social structures—and report on their evolving association with cumulative Covid-19 deaths. After accounting for a simple set of Lasso-chosen controls, we find that measures of government effectiveness, interpersonal and institutional trust, bureaucratic corruption and ethnic fragmentation are currently associated in theory-consistent directions. We do not, however, find associations between deaths and many other political and social variables that have received attention in public discussions, such as populist governments or women-led governments. Currently, the results suggest that state capacity is more important for explaining Covid-19 mortality than government accountability to citizens, with potential implications for how the disease progresses in high-income versus low-income countries. These patterns may change over time with the evolution of the pandemic, however. A dashboard with daily updates, extensions, and code is provided at https://wzb-ipi.github.io/corona/.
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