Ellen Lust, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Gothenburg.
Conventional wisdom holds that citizens demand high quality service provision across all countries and sectors, and as a result, attributes variations in education, health and other human development outcomes to supply-side factors. Whether these factors are viewed as the outcomes of political institutions or the quality of government, the assumption is that the differences in development are due to state institutions. In this paper, we challenge this view. We argue that socio-economic structures systematically drive citizen demand for services across both countries and sectors, and this affects development outcomes. We demonstrate the importance of demand-side factors through an analysis of the impact of natural resource rents on education, employing cross-sectional analysis of national-level education outcomes, student-level analyses in nine countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and case studies of Alaska and Norway. We find that citizens who benefit from these rents perform less well than one may expect given the resources available to them, and we argue that this is because they are less likely to demand and invest their energies into attaining high quality education when they can obtain a high standard of living regardless of the quality of education they attain. We argue further that the impact of rents on education outcomes differs from that on other sectors, and consider the evidence with regard to health. Moreover, rents are is just one of many ways that socio-economic structures impact development outcomes, and we thus reflect on the impact of other socio-economic institutions on development outcomes. These findings highlight the importance of taking citizens’ demand for services seriously, draws attention to problems of using health and education outcomes as measures of service delivery, and extends the literature on rentier states. They also inform us as we consider challenges ahead. We conclude by considering how demographic and technological changes impact the challenges ahead, given a framework that incorporates both political and social institutions.
Please note: this is a co-authored paper with Hans Lueders (Stanford University) and Jumana Alaref (World Bank)
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