Rising income per capita does not necessarily increase chances of a move to democracy

daronacemoglu, Simon.Johnson, jamesarobinson, pierreyared0, Mon, 08/20/2007

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At the heart of comparative politics is an attempt to understand why different societies are organised in different ways. Why are some democratic, others not? Why do some societies develop modern effective nation states, while others do not? Why do some societies experience revolutions, while others undertake more gradual change? And finally, why are some societies relatively prosperous, while others are not?

Two distinct approaches to these questions have been popular: the first focuses on a potential causal channel from one of these variables to the rest; the second is based on the theory that at certain critical junctures societies make decisions that move them onto distinct development paths, leading to various outcomes.

The authors of CEPR DP6430 look at the evidence supporting the most famous example of the former approach, Lipset's modernization hypothesis, which proposes a causal effect of income per capita on propensity for the creation and consolidation of democracy.

Looking at a post-war sample of former European colonies, they find that once underlying historical factors that affect both the income per capita of a country and the likelihood for democracy are controlled for, the correlation between income and democracy is removed. Although democracy and prosperity tend to coevolve along a 'virtuous' development path, they find no evidence that income per capita has a causal effect on democracy. Instead other, most probably historical, factors appear to have shaped the divergent political and economic development paths of various societies.

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URL:  http://www.cepr.org/pubs/new-dps/dplist.asp?dpno=6430.asp

Topics:  Politics and economics

Tags:  democratisation, income

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