The Cuban Revolution and Infant Mortality, 1959-1974

I have a new working paper available. This time, it concerns Cuba (again) and I joined efforts with my friend Jamie Bologna Pavlik of Texas Tech University to write up that paper. We used a synthetic control method to assess the effect of the 1959 revolution on Cuba’s infant mortality rate. As health outcomes are often presented as the Castro regime’s best accomplishment (and yet there exists no attempt to disentangle the true effects of the revolution), we decided that this was a paper whose time had come. We find that infant mortality went up relative to the counterfactual between 1959 and 1970 but then reverted back to the counterfactual (a reversal which we attribute to the ramping-up of Soviet subsidies to Cuba). Overall, somewhere between 33,000 and 41,000 extra infant deaths occurred between 1959 and 1974. The paper is available here on SSRN and the abstract is below:

The Cuban government often vaunts its accomplishment of reducing infant mortality post 1959. However, because many Latin American countries experienced similar decreases, it is unclear that this effect is government induced. We use the fact that Cuba underwent momentous and unique political change to consider the legacy of the Fidel Castro regime on infant mortality. We employ a synthetic control method to ascertain the reduction attributable to the regime. We find that in the first years of the regime, infant mortality increased relative to the counterfactual but that – after the introduction of Soviet foreign aid – infant mortality reverted to trend.

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