Working Paper
Do bigger health budgets cushion pandemics?

An empirical test of COVID-19 deaths across the world

How has government healthcare spending prepared countries for tackling the COVID-19 pandemic? Arguably, spending is the primary policy tool of governments in providing effective health.

We argue that the effectiveness of spending in reducing COVID deaths is conditional on the existence of healthcare equity and lower political corruption, because the health sector is particularly susceptible to political spending.

Our results, obtained using ordinary least squares (OLS) and two-stage least squares (2SLS) estimation, suggest that higher spending targeted at reducing inequitable access to health has reduced COVID deaths. Consistent with the findings of others, our results indirectly suggest that health spending is necessary, but not sufficient unless accompanied by building resilience against the spread of deadly disease.

Equitable health systems ease the effects of COVID presumably because they allow states to reach and treat people. Spending aimed at increasing health system capacity by increasing access thus seems a sound strategy for fighting the spread of disease, ultimately benefiting us all.