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Effects of Anti-Corruption Audits on Early-Life Mortality: Evidence from Brazil


  • Antonio P. Ramos
  • Simeon Nichter
  • Leiwen Gao
  • Gustavo J. Bobonis


Although various studies suggest that corruption affects public health systems, the literature lacks causal evidence about whether anti-corruption interventions can improve health outcomes. The present article provides novel evidence that one such intervention — anti-corruption audits — improved early-life mortality in Brazil. The Brazilian government conducted audits in 1,949 randomly selected municipalities between 2003 and 2015. To identify the causal effect of anti-corruption audits on early-life mortality, we analyze official data on health outcomes from individual-level vital statistics before and after the intervention. A randomly audited municipality is estimated to experience 0.48 fewer child deaths (95% CI: -0.81, -0.15) and 0.34 fewer infant deaths (-0.61, -0.07) per year, relative to never experiencing an audit. The audit program is estimated to have prevented the deaths of 7,014 (2,216, 11,813) children, including 5,028 (891, 9,165) infants. The observed mortality in audited municipalities is approximately 94 percent of the child deaths, and 95 percent of the infant deaths, that would have occurred in the absence of the intervention. Early-life mortality fell especially sharply for nonwhite Brazilians, who face significant health disparities. Effects are greater when examining deaths from preventable causes, and show temporal persistence with large effects even a decade after audits. In addition, the intervention led to a substantial increase in women receiving recommended levels of prenatal care; this effect is likewise concentrated among nonwhite Brazilians. This causal evidence suggests that government anti-corruption interventions have the potential to improve health outcomes, a finding that deserves investigation in other countries.

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  • Antonio P. Ramos & Simeon Nichter & Leiwen Gao & Gustavo J. Bobonis, 2022. "Effects of Anti-Corruption Audits on Early-Life Mortality: Evidence from Brazil," Working Papers tecipa-733, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:tecipa-733

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Claudio Ferraz & Frederico Finan, 2008. "Exposing Corrupt Politicians: The Effects of Brazil's Publicly Released Audits on Electoral Outcomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(2), pages 703-745.
    2. Claudio Ferraz & Frederico Finan, 2011. "Electoral Accountability and Corruption: Evidence from the Audits of Local Governments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(4), pages 1274-1311, June.
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    More about this item


    Corruption; Program Evaluation; Child Health; Infant Mortality; Child Mortality;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O54 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Latin America; Caribbean
    • I15 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health and Economic Development
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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