Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Political Science

First Advisor

Professor David S. Brown

Second Advisor

Professor E. Scott Adler

Third Advisor

Professor Lorraine Bayard de Volo


This paper studies the relationship between maternal access to health care and democracy. Access to female health services is a critical metric in measuring the overall quality of health care globally, and is an indicator of a state’s cultural, social, and political development. Likewise, the degree of political freedom in a country is correlated with the amount of funding social welfare programs receive (Brown and Hunter, 1999; Navarro et al., 2006).

In this paper, I examine how states ranging from democratic to authoritarian provide health care for their female populations. Using data provided by the World Bank and Freedom House, countries are measured based on their economic development (GDP per capita), economic inequality (using Gini coefficient scores), degree of democracy (according to the Freedom House Freedom Rating), and maternal access to health care. The two measures of my dependent variable are data taken from the World Bank measuring maternal mortality ratios per 100,000 live births and the percentage of births attended by skilled health staff.

There are three main findings: (1) GDP per capita and economic inequality are strongly associated with the two dependent variables; (2) land surface area is negatively associated with female access to health care; (3) regime type and democracy scores have little bearing on access to care.

In conclusion, I find that economic development and inequality are the strongest predictors of female access to health care. Empowering communities through overall development and increased quality of life will improve female access to care worldwide.