Journal Article
Does social spending improve welfare in low- and middle-income countries?

Over the past two decades, there has been unprecedented attention to the promotion of human development via government spending in the social sectors as a conditio sine qua non for economic growth and improved aggregate welfare. Yet the existing evidence on the subject remains limited and contested.

This paper contributes to the literature by examining the causal effect of government spending on the social sectors (health, education and social protection) on three measures of aggregate welfare: the Human Development Index, the Inequality‐adjusted Human Development Index and child mortality rates, using longitudinal data from 55 low‐income and middle‐income countries from 1990 to 2009.

We find strong evidence to support the proposition that government social spending has played a significant role in improving aggregate welfare in the developing world. Our results are fairly robust to, inter alia, the method of estimation, the set of control variables and the use of alternative samples and instruments.

Journal Article This peer-reviewed research is available free of charge. UNU-WIDER believes that research is a global public good and supports Open Access.