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Keeping Dictators Honest : the Role of Population Concentration


  • Quoc-Anh Doy


  • Filipe R. Campante


In order to explain the apparently paradoxical presence of acceptable governance in many non-democratic regimes, economists and political scientists have focused mostly on institutions acting as de facto checks and balances. In this paper, we propose that population plays a similar role in guaranteeing the quality of governance and redistribution. We argue and demonstrate with historical evidence that the concentration of population around the policy making center serves as an insurgency threat to a dictatorship, inducing it to yield to more redistribution and better governance. We bring this centered concept of population concentration to the data through the Centered Index of Spatial Concentration developed by Do & Campante (2008). The evidence supports our predictions : only in the sample of autocracies, population concentration around the capital city is positively associated with better governance and more redistribution (proxied by post-tax inequality), in OLS and IV regressions. Finally, we provide arguments to dismiss possible reverse causation as well as alternative, non-political economy explanations of such regularity,discuss the general applicability of our index and conclude with policy implications.

Suggested Citation

  • Quoc-Anh Doy & Filipe R. Campante, 2009. "Keeping Dictators Honest : the Role of Population Concentration," Governance Working Papers 22076, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:eab:govern:22076

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Campante, Filipe Robin & Do, Quoc-Anh, 2009. "A Centered Index of Spatial Concentration: Axiomatic Approach with an Application to Population and Capital Cities," Scholarly Articles 4481653, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
    2. Glaeser, Edward L. & Kahn, Matthew E., 2004. "Sprawl and urban growth," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics,in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 56, pages 2481-2527 Elsevier.
    3. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2000. "Why Did the West Extend the Franchise? Democracy, Inequality, and Growth in Historical Perspective," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1167-1199.
    4. Berger, Helge & Spoerer, Mark, 2001. "Economic Crises And The European Revolutions Of 1848," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(02), pages 293-326, June.
    5. C. A. Hidalgo & B. Klinger & A. -L. Barabasi & R. Hausmann, 2007. "The Product Space Conditions the Development of Nations," Papers 0708.2090,
    6. Timothy Besley & Andrea Prat, 2006. "Handcuffs for the Grabbing Hand? Media Capture and Government Accountability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 720-736, June.
    7. Filipe R. Campante & Davin Chor & Quoc-Anh Do, 2009. "Instability And The Incentives For Corruption," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 21(1), pages 42-92, March.
    8. Alberto F. Ades & Edward L. Glaeser, 1995. "Trade and Circuses: Explaining Urban Giants," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(1), pages 195-227.
    9. Besley, Timothy J. & Kudamatsu, Masayuki, 2007. "Making Autocracy Work," CEPR Discussion Papers 6371, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Campante, Filipe & Do, Quoc-Anh, 2007. "Inequality, Redistribution, and Population," Working Paper Series rwp07-046, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    11. Roland G. Fryer Jr. & Richard Holden, 2011. "Measuring the Compactness of Political Districting Plans," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(3), pages 493-535.
    12. Berger, Helge & Spoerer, Mark, 2001. "Economic crises and the European revolutions of 1848," Munich Reprints in Economics 15926, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    13. Grossman, Herschel I & Iyigun, Murat F, 1997. "Population Increase and the End of Colonialism," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 64(255), pages 483-493, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Toke Aidt & Gabriel Leon & Max Satchell, 2017. "The Social Dynamics of Collective Action: Evidence from the Captain Swing Riots, 1830-31," CESifo Working Paper Series 6773, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Toke Aidt & Gabriel Leon, 2014. "The Democratic Window of Opportunity: Evidence from Riots in Sub-Saharan Africa," CESifo Working Paper Series 4884, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Aidt, T. S. & Leon, G. & Satchell, M., 2017. "The Social Dynamics of Collective Action: Evidence from the Captain Swing Riots, 1830-31," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1751, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.

    More about this item


    Capital Cities; Gravity; Governance; Inequality; Redistribution; Population Concentration; Revolutions; Harmonic Functions; Axiomatics;

    JEL classification:

    • C43 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Index Numbers and Aggregation
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • J19 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Other
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population


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