Measuring and Explaining Country Efficiency in Improving Health and Education Indicators
Governments aiming to improve the education and health status of their populations can increase the level of public spending allocated to these sectors, or improve the efficiency of public spending. Since increasing spending is often difficult due to the limited tax base of most developing countries, improving the efficiency of public spending becomes crucial. In order to improve this efficiency, governments have at least two options. The first consists of changing the allocation mix of public expenditures. The second option is more ambitious; it consists of implementing wide-ranging institutional reforms in order to improve variables such as the overall level of bureaucratic quality and corruption in a country, with the hope that this will improve the efficiency of public spending for the social sectors, among other things. In this paper, we use stochastic production frontier estimation methods to compare the impact of the level of public spending on education and health outcomes on the one hand, and the efficiency in spending on the other hand, using life expectancy and net enrolment in primary school as outcome indicators. After estimating efficiency measures at the country level, we analyze in a second step how the quality of the bureaucracy, corruption, and urbanization affect efficiency. We find that urbanization, and to some extent the quality of the bureaucracy are strong determinants of the efficiency of countries in improving education and health outcomes, while the impact of corruption is not statistically significant. Together, these three variables alone explain up to half of the variation in efficiency measures between countries.
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