Ethnic Politics, Risk, and Policy-Making: A Cross-National Statistical Analysis of Government Responses to HIV/AIDS

Author(s): Evan Lieberman 

Status/Format: Published

Date: 2007

Publication Type: Journal Article

Publisher: Comparative Political Studies

Volume and Issue: 40(12)

Page Numbers: 1407-1432


What explains country policy responses to the AIDS pandemic? The author highlights ethnic politics as a negative influence on AIDS-related expenditures and other policies. When societies are ethnically divided and fragmented, elites are less likely to mobilize around the idea of risk from a stigmatized condition, fearing that their group will suffer reputational consequences. They are more likely to emphasize that the risks are contained within other groups, or that the threat is exaggerated. In turn, governments are less likely to provide policies because of lower demand and the potential for political resistance to actions viewed as unwelcome and/or unnecessary. A series of cross-national statistical analyses consistently reveal negative effects of ethnic fractionalization on AIDS policy. As compared with analogous analyses, it is possible to rule out the potential endogeneity concern that ethnic political competition might be a consequence as much as it was a cause of bad public policy and underdevelopment.