Comparative Politics

Democracy, State Capacity, and COVID-19 Related School Closures



This paper investigates the institutional determinants of the timing of COVID-19 related school closures around the world, focusing on the role of democracy and administrative state capacity. Relying foremost on Cox proportional hazard models of up to 166 countries observed daily between February and April of 2020, the paper finds that other things being equal, democratic countries tended to implement school closures quicker than those with a more authoritarian regime, while countries with higher government effectiveness tended to take longer than those with less effective state apparatuses. A supplementary analysis that distinguishes between the two democratic dimensions of contestation and participation indicates that it is the existence of fair and competitive elections that prompts democratic leaders to respond more rapidly. Lastly, auxiliary evidence indicates that demography and family systems may also help determine countries' pandemic responses.

Version notes

Data for two more weeks have been added, the theory section has been expanded, the scope of the main analysis has been extended from 134 to 166 countries, the methodology has been improved, a supplementary analysis of the democratic dimensions of contestation and participation has been conducted, and the results are now interpreted in policy-relevant terms.


Thumbnail image of Cronert_2020_COVID19_School_Closures_March29.pdf


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