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Why do some countries spend more for health? An assessment of sociopolitical determinants and international aid for government health expenditures

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Publication details

JournalSocial science and medicine
DatePublished - Aug 2014
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)161-168
Original languageEnglish


A consensus exists that rising income levels and technological development are among key drivers of total health spending. Determinants of public sector health expenditure, by contrast, are less well understood. This study examines a complex relationship across government health expenditure (GHE), sociopolitical risks, and international aid, while taking into account the impacts of national income, debt and tax financing and aging populations on health spending. We apply a fixed-effects two-stage least squares regression method to a panel dataset comprising 120 countries for the years 1995 through 2010. Our results show that democratic accountability has a diminishing positive correlation with GHE, and that levels of GHE are higher when government is more stable. Corruption is associated with less GHE in developing countries, but with higher GHE in developed countries. We also find that development assistance for health (DAH) is fungible with domestically financed government health expenditure (DGHE). For an average country, a 1% increase in DAH to government is associated with a 0.03-0.04% decrease in DGHE. Furthermore, the degree of fungibility of DAH to government is higher in countries where corruption or ethnic tensions are widespread. However, DAH to non-governmental organizations is not fungible with DGHE.

    Research areas

  • Developed Countries, Developing Countries, Financing, Government, Health Expenditures, Humans, International Cooperation, Politics, Socioeconomic Factors

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