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Extreme Bounds of Democracy

by Martin Gassebner, Michael J. Lamla and James Raymond Vreeland. Reading for Tuesday, October 28, 2008.

There are many stories of democracy but little consensus over which variables robustly determine its emergence and survival. We apply extreme bounds analysis to test the robustness of 59 factors proposed in the literature, evaluating over 1.7 million regressions of the emergence of democracy, and over 1.4 million regressions for the survival of democracy. The most robust determinants of the transition to democracy are the number of past transitions (a positive effect), whether the country is a member of the OECD (a positive effect), and GDP growth (a negative effect). There is also some evidence that fuel exporters and Muslim countries are less likely to see democracy emerge, although the latter finding is driven entirely by oil producing Muslim countries. Regarding the survival of democracy, the most robust determinants are level of economic development (a positive effect) and, interestingly, the number of past transitions (a negative effect) – indicating that both supporters and subverters of democracy learn from history. There is also some evidence that having a former military leader as the chief executive has a negative effect on democratic survival, while having other democracies as neighbors has a reinforcing effect.

Download File: Gassebner.pdf

Center for Comparative and Global Research