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Institutions, Famine and Inequality


  • Pasquale Tridico
  • Francesco Burchi


In this paper we analyze whether and which political institutions are important for famine prevention and for keeping the levels of inequality low. While famines are sudden crises hitting a country, inequality is a structural problem. As a consequence, the institutions needed might be very different. The econometric exercises realized on a group of emerging and developing countries confirm the validity of Amartya Sen’s “democracy prevents famine” argument, while democracy is not a significant determinant of income inequality. These results are in line with previous ones, suggesting an unclear role of democratic institutions in facing other structural problems, such as hunger and poverty. Moreover, two main institutional indicators, computed by the World Bank, “control of corruption” and “government effectiveness” are negatively correlated with famine mortality, suggesting that the policy environment, the level of bureaucracy, governmental capacity to take decisions and implement them in a short period are relevant factors for reducing famine mortality. In contrast, political stability explains better income inequality in our sample of countries. Social peace and cohesion are deterrent for inequality, but the direction of the relationship should be investigated further.

Suggested Citation

  • Pasquale Tridico & Francesco Burchi, 2010. "Institutions, Famine and Inequality," Departmental Working Papers of Economics - University 'Roma Tre' 0121, Department of Economics - University Roma Tre.
  • Handle: RePEc:rtr:wpaper:0121

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Plümper, Thomas & Neumayer, Eric, 2009. "Famine Mortality, Rational Political Inactivity, and International Food Aid," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 50-61, January.
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    More about this item


    Famine; Inequality; Institutions; Democracy; Cross-country analysis;

    JEL classification:

    • I39 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Other
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

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