Faculty members explore the benefits of democracy in the face of epidemics

Kelly McMann, professor of political science, and Daniel Tisch, associate professor in the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences, co-authored a paper titled “Democratic Regimes and Epidemic Deaths.” Their work was published in Varieties of Democracy Working Paper Series, which reaches 10,000 scholars, policymakers and advocates for democracy worldwide.

This paper reveals a benefit of democracy, relative to other regime types, in one issue area: epidemics. The paper demonstrates that democracy, compared to other regime types, lowers epidemic deaths in countries by approximately 70%, ceteris paribus. This result is driven by particular democratic components—free and fair elections and legislative and executive constraints on the executive—and by democracy at both the national and local levels. 

These findings support the researchers’ argument that democracies’ relative success in reducing epidemics deaths is due to the incentives for and constraints on executives at different levels of government to act rapidly in pursuit of the public good. 

Their novel methodological approaches of investigating democracy’s components and different levels of government allows the researchers to begin to develop a theoretical framework of regime types’ effects in different issue areas. These approaches generate more useful advice to policymakers and practitioners: they need guidance about which democratic institutions and practices and which levels of government to invest in for the greatest benefits.

Read their paper (PDF).

The research was funded by a CWRU College of Arts and Sciences Expanding Horizons Initiative Grant.