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Research Seminar | Fighting the Disease or Manipulating the Data? Democracy, State Capacity, and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Monday February 28, 2022, from 13:30 to 15:00
Online & Face-to-face*. Room 24.009 (Ground floor). Mercè Rodoreda Building 24. UPF Ciutadella
Research seminar

Carl Henrik Knutsen (University of Oslo). ChairFulya Apaydin (IBEI)

Available in video:

The seminar discuss and analyze how regime type and state capacity shape the abilities and incentives of political leaders to respond to COVID-19. We argue that there is likely a complementary relationship between democracy and state capacity, both in terms of mitigating adverse consequences of the pandemic, such as deaths, and the honest reporting of these consequences. Using a recent, global dataset on officially reported COVID-19 deaths and estimated deaths based on excess mortality, we find evidence supporting different implications from our argument. Democracies have much higher officially reported death tolls than autocracies, but this basically reflects underreporting in autocracies. In high-capacity states, democracies have fewer actual deaths than autocracies. State capacity, generally, seems to mitigate both actual deaths and underreporting, but these relationships are stronger in democracies. Countries that combine democracy and high state capacity both experience fewer COVID-19 deaths and provide more accurate tolls of the pandemic’s consequences.

Carl Henrik Knutsen is a Professor at the Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Oslo, where he leads the Comparative Institutions and Regimes (CIR) research group. He also holds a secondary position as Research Professor at PRIO and he is a PI of Varieties of Democracy. His research interests include regime change and stability, the economic effects of institutions, autocratic politics, and several other fascinating topics in comparative politics and political economy. His largest ongoing project (2020-2025) is funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant and called the “Emergence, Life, and Demise of Autocratic Regimes” (ELDAR). He also leads another large (FRIPRO) project on “Policies of Dictatorships” (2020-2024), financed by Research Council Norway.

*This activity has limited capacity. Registration is required to have a guaranteed seat and be able to attend the face-to-face modality. Virtual attendees will receive the access link by email.


Check the complete list of this year's research seminars