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Mass Privatization and the Postcommunist Mortality Crisis

A public lecture by LARRY KING, Cambridge University, Sociology

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Duration: 44:12

Transitions from state socialism to capitalism gave rise to an unprecedented mortality crisis. Current explanations center on unhealthy lifestyles, health system collapse and acute psychosocial stress, although little comparative research has attempted to specify a mechanism that can explain the variation over time and across countries. We develop and test a causal model of how transition policies affect population health inspired by classical sociological analyses of the transition to capitalism. Using panel data for 25 Post-Soviet countries from 1989 to 2002, we find strong empirical evidence that mass privatization, whether measured by a novel program implementation variable or European Bank for Reconstruction and Development privatization indices, significantly reduces male life expectancy by increasing heart disease, suicide, homicide and alcohol-related mortality rates with the greatest overall effects on working-age men. The most important mechanism linking privatization and death appears to be stress and stress related drinking, and one of the major pathways producing excess mortality is privatization leading to unemployment leading to premature death.
Lawrence King is Reader in Sociology at the University of Cambridge. He studies the intersection of political processes, social structure and economic institutions with comparative-historical, qualitative, quantitative, power-structure and industrial organization research methods. Most of his published work has focused on foreign direct investment, privatization, and industrial restructuring in Central Eastern Europe and Russia. His current research focuses on the relationship between globalization and public health in postcommunist and less developed countries.

Center for European and Eurasian Studies