Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Chambers College of Business and Economics



Committee Chair

Andrew T. Young

Committee Co-Chair

Linda Kinney

Committee Member

Donald Lacombe

Committee Member

Shuichiro Nishioka

Committee Member

Amanda Ross


As a region, sub-Saharan Africa lags behind the rest of the world in both human development and economic growth. However, a portion of the development literature suggests that institutions may play a role in explaining, and perhaps changing, the outcomes that are observed in these countries. Therefore, this dissertation explores how institutions have shaped and continue to shape the health and economic outcomes of this region. In Chapter 2, jointly with Andrew Young, we seek to explain the correlation between high HIV prevalence rates and the Christian share of the population that contrasts with low HIV prevalence rates observed with the Muslim share of the population. We conclude that, while male circumcision (a predominantly Muslim tradition) is inversely related with HIV prevalence, some other cultural factor continues to drive the correlation between Christianity and HIV.;Chapter 3 compares the role of democracy to economic freedom in determining health outcomes in African countries. After incorporating controls, I find that economic freedom is associated with higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality while democracy is not. However, I also find that the effectiveness of economic institutions depends in part on the resources that are present in a given country. In the absence of water access, for example, a stronger government may play a role in providing public goods for the benefit of the health of the population.;In Chapter 4, I investigate the institutional determinants of the high levels of shadow economic activity present in the sub-Saharan region. My findings show that improved legal and property protection in addition to a sound money supply decreases informality within a given country. Furthermore, by employing a spatial econometric model, I find that countries that are neighbors to a country with less intrusive government oversight are likely to experience lower levels of informal activity themselves.