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Government revenue and child and maternal mortality

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Stephen Hall, Janine Illian, Innocent Makuta, Kyle McNabb, Stuart William Murray, Bernadette Ann-Marie O'Hare, Andre Python, Syed Haider Ali Zaidi , Naor Bar-Zeev

School/Research organisations


Most maternal and child deaths result from inadequate access to the critical determinants of health: clean water, sanitation, education and healthcare, which are also among the Sustainable Development Goals. Reasons for poor access include insufficient government revenue for essential public services. In this paper, we predict the reductions in mortality rates — both child and maternal — that could result from increases in government revenue, using panel data from 191 countries and a two-way fixed-effect linear regression model. The relationship between government revenue per capita and mortality rates is highly non-linear, and the best form of non-linearity we have found is a version of an inverse function. This implies that countries with small per-capita government revenues have a better scope for reducing mortality rates. However, as per-capita revenue rises, the possible gains decline rapidly in a non-linear way. We present the results which show the potential decrease in mortality and lives saved for each of the 191 countries if government revenue increases. For example, a 10% increase in per-capita government revenue in Afghanistan in 2002 ($24.49 million) is associated with a reduction in the under-5 mortality rate by 12.35 deaths per 1000 births and 13,094 lives saved. This increase is associated with a decrease in the maternal mortality ratio of 9.3 deaths per 100,000 live births and 99 maternal deaths averted. Increasing government revenue can directly impact mortality, especially in countries with low per- capita government revenues. The results presented in this study could be used for economic, social and governance reporting by multinational companies and for evidence-based policymaking and advocacy.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalOpen Economies Review
VolumeFirst Online
Early online date12 Sep 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Sep 2020

    Research areas

  • Government revenue, Public services, Under-five mortality, Maternal mortality, Human rights

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