This manuscript-based thesis is composed of four articles, each examining the effect of social policy and the quality of institutions on development outcomes such as health, poverty and insecurity in the Global South. The first article estimates the effect of exposure of young mothers to tuition-free primary education policies on the risk of infant and neonatal mortality in 37 low- and middle-income countries surveyed by the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program. Results show that, on average, exposure to a tuition-free education policy is associated with 15 fewer infant and 5 fewer neonatal deaths per 1000 live births. The second article uses 51-country cross-sectional and 20-country longitudinal DHS data to estimate the effect of female political representation on infant mortality and child measles vaccination status at the individual level and finds that increased female representation is associated with improved child health. The third article explores the effect of infrastructure provisioning on health service delivery and utilization in 34 African countries, using 2013 survey data from Afrobarometer. This article finds that although countries with improved infrastructure provisioning are better able to deliver health services to people, there are significant governance challenges, such as corruption, bureaucratic inefficiency, lack of democratic rule and lack of rule of law, which impede people's utilization of health services in Africa. The last article evaluates the relative importance of economic growth and good governance in reducing poverty and insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa. Using survey data from Afrobarometer in a multilevel statistical analysis, it finds that good governance has more consistent and stronger effects on reducing poverty and insecurity compared to economic growth which needs to persist over time to positively affect these outcomes.