Neo-liberalism and life expectancy: a study in the political-economy of population health
Ross Macmillan, Università Bocconi
Keiti Kondi, Università Bocconi
Recent decades have seen large-scale changes in social, political, and economic governance that is typically described as the rise of ‘neoliberalism.’ In brief, neoliberalism stresses free markets in the provision of social welfares, localization of services, and more minimalist nation-state government and its rise has spawned an extensive body of critique, particular in the realm of population health. At the same time, there is relatively little strong empirical evidence of its consequences. To fill this void, this paper examines life expectancy dynamics in relation to neoliberalism through complementary fixed-effects analyses of data from the Human Mortality Database (ca. 1970-2009) and World Health Organization life tables (1990, 2000, & 2009). Contrary to conventional wisdom, the results show little to no evidence that life expectancy is compromised with more extensive neoliberalism and some evidence that it has actually been enhanced, particularly in low-income countries. As such, this research contributes to long-standing interests in macro-economic conditions and their impact on population dynamics, as well as increased calls for attention to the social and political factors that shape economic inequalities and their consequences for population health.