Individual Empowerment, Institutional Confidence, and Vaccination Rates in Cross-National Perspective, 1995 to 2018

Wade M. Cole, Evan Schofer, Kristopher Velasco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

In the past decade, before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, rates of childhood vaccination against diseases such as measles, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus declined worldwide. An extensive literature examines the correlates and motives of vaccine hesitancy—the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines—among individuals, but little macrosociological theory or research seeks to explain changes in country-level vaccine uptake in global and comparative perspective. Drawing on existing research on vaccine hesitancy and recent developments in world society theory, we link cross-national variation in vaccination rates to two global cultural processes: the dramatic empowerment of individuals and declining confidence in liberal institutions. Both processes, we argue, emerged endogenously in liberal world culture, instigated by the neoliberal turn of the 1980s and 1990s. Fixed- and random-effects panel regression analyses of data for 80 countries between 1995 and 2018 support our claim that individualism and lack of institutional confidence contributed to the global decline in vaccination rates. We also find that individualism is itself partly responsible for declining institutional confidence. Our framework of world-cultural change might be extended to help make sense of recent post-liberal challenges in other domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-417
Number of pages39
JournalAmerican Sociological Review
Volume88
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

Keywords

  • individualism
  • neoliberalism
  • post-liberalism
  • vaccines
  • world culture
  • world society

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