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Do Neoliberal Economic Policies Kill or Save Lives?

  • John Gerring (a1) and Strom C. Thacker (a1)

Do neoliberal economic policies help or hinder human development? Many have argued that such policies promote economic stability and growth, which may have indirect positive effects on human welfare. Others claim that neoliberal policies retard human development. We argue that neoliberal economic policies may improve the human welfare in ways that are independent of their effects on economic performance. Specifically, this paper hypothesizes that open international trade policies, low-inflation macroeconomic environments, and market-oriented property rights regimes promote human development across the world. We test this argument by examining the impact of several measures of neoliberal policies on infant mortality rates across the world between 1960 and 1999. Results suggest that openness to imports, long-term membership in the GATT and WTO, low rates of inflation, and effective contract enforcement are each associated with lower rates of infant mortality across the world, even when controlling for countries' economic performance.

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