BP68: Poverty reduction, economic growth and democratization in Sub-Saharan Africa

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Briefing papers
Mattes, Robert and Michael Bratton

In this Briefing Paper, we find that even with the significant growth that Sub-Saharan Africa has experienced over the past decade, as of 2008 lived poverty (or the extent to which people regularly go without basic necessities) is still extensive.  It has declined in 9 of the Afrobarometer countries for which we have over time data during this period, it has increased in 6 countries.  We find that cross-national differences in economic growth help explain differing country trajectories in lived poverty.  However, a more complete picture must also take into consideration the state of political freedom.  Lived poverty is strongly related to country level measures of political freedom, and changes in poverty are related to changes in freedom.  This finding supports Sen's (1999) arguments about the crucial importance of freedom for development.  Yet using different measures of both development and democracy, it also corroborates the findings of Halperin et al (2004) about a “democracy advantage” for well being and prosperity.