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The Growth Effect of Democracy: Is it Heterogenous and how can it be Estimated?


  • Torsten Persson
  • Guido Tabellini


We estimate the effect of political regime transitions on growth with semi-parametric methods, combining difference in differences with matching, that have not been used in macroeconomic settings. Our semi-parametric estimates suggest that previous parametric estimates may have seriously underestimated the growth effects of democracy. In particular, we find an average negative effect on growth of leaving democracy on the order of −2 percentage points implying effects on income per capita as large as 45 percent over the 1960-2000 panel. Heterogenous characteristics of reforming and non-reforming countries appear to play an important role in driving these results.

Suggested Citation

  • Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2007. "The Growth Effect of Democracy: Is it Heterogenous and how can it be Estimated?," CESifo Working Paper Series 2016, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2016

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Elias Papaioannou & Gregorios Siourounis, 2008. "Democratisation and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(532), pages 1520-1551, October.
    2. Besley, Timothy & Kudamatsu, Masayuki, 2007. "Making autocracy work," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 3764, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Edward Glaeser & Giacomo Ponzetto & Andrei Shleifer, 2007. "Why does democracy need education?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 12(2), pages 77-99, June.
    4. Giavazzi, Francesco & Tabellini, Guido, 2005. "Economic and political liberalizations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(7), pages 1297-1330, October.
    5. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2009. "Democratic Capital: The Nexus of Political and Economic Change," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 88-126, July.
    6. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2006. "Democracy and Development: The Devil in the Details," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 319-324, May.
    7. Alberto Abadie, 2005. "Semiparametric Difference-in-Differences Estimators," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(1), pages 1-19.
    8. Lechner, Michael, 1999. "Identification and Estimation of Causal Effects of Multiple Treatments Under the Conditional Independence Assumption," IZA Discussion Papers 91, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2005. "The Economic Effects of Constitutions," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262661926, January.
    10. Dani Rodrik & Romain Wacziarg, 2005. "Do Democratic Transitions Produce Bad Economic Outcomes?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 50-55, May.
    11. Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2009. "Hit or Miss? The Effect of Assassinations on Institutions and War," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(2), pages 55-87, July.
    12. Susan Athey & Guido W. Imbens, 2006. "Identification and Inference in Nonlinear Difference-in-Differences Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(2), pages 431-497, March.
    13. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    14. James J. Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Petra Todd, 1998. "Matching As An Econometric Evaluation Estimator," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(2), pages 261-294.
    15. Torsten Persson, 2005. "Forms of Democracy, Policy and Economic Development," NBER Working Papers 11171, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Benjamin F. Jones & Benjamin A. Olken, 2005. "Do Leaders Matter? National Leadership and Growth Since World War II," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 835-864.
    17. Richard Blundell & Monica Costa Dias & Costas Meghir & John Van Reenen, 2001. "Evaluating the employment impact of a mandatory job search assistance program," IFS Working Papers W01/20, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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    More about this item


    growth; democracy; development; political institutions;

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development


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