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Abstract:

Development Economics Paper
Democracy and Education Spending: Has Africa's Move to Multiparty Elections Made a Difference to Policy?
David Stasavage
February 2003
Paper No' DEDPS 37:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: H52; I28; O11


Tags: primary education; political economy; democracy; electoral competition.

While it is generally recognized that electoral competition can have a major influence on public spending decisions, there has been little effort to consider whether the move to multiparty elections in African countries in recent years has led to a redistribution of public expenditures between social groups. In this paper I develop a hypothesis, illustrated with a simple game-theoretic model, which suggests that the need to obtain an electoral majority may have prompted African governments to devote greater resources to primary schools. I test this proposition using panel data on electoral competition and education spending in thirty-five African countries over the period 1981-1996. The results show that democratization has indeed been associated with greater spending on primary schools, and these findings are robust to controls for unobserved country effects. They are also supported by evidence from recent country cases. Though the reemergence of multiparty democracy in Africa has not led to a wholesale transformation of economic policies, these findings nonetheless suggest that it may be having a significant impact in individual policy areas.