Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, January 16, 2009

Another indicator of state capacity

Perhaps we should expand our definition of "shock therapy."

Study Looks at Mortality in Post-Soviet Era

"Rapid and widespread privatization in several former states of the Soviet Union and former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s contributed to rising mortality rates, particularly in Russia, according to a study published Thursday.

"The report... said the results varied among the countries, depending on the pace of privatization, the official response to unemployment and the level of support from social organizations...

"'Rapid mass privatization as an economic transition strategy was a crucial determinant of differences in adult mortality trends in post-Communist societies,' [the authors] wrote in the report. The effects of privatization were 'reduced if social capital was high.'

"The report contends that life expectancy diminished in the early to mid-1990s in countries that were being rapidly transformed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Even though the governmental and economic transitions occurred nearly two decades ago, the report said, 'only a little over half of the ex-Communist countries have regained their pretransition life-expectancy levels.'...

"The contrast between Russia and other countries, notably the Czech Republic and Poland, was striking because Poland was one of the first Eastern European countries to pursue what became known as the “shock therapy” model... Despite the immense upheaval, the transformation did not lead to higher mortality rates in Poland, the report says, possibly because of the country’s strong social institutions and also because Poles could emigrate or rely on Poles in Western Europe and North America for support...

"The authors suggest that the existence of trade unions, churches, sports, political organizations and other social organizations played a significant role in cushioning adults’ stress during the transitions..."

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