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Democracy, Technology, and Growth


  • Philippe Aghion
  • Alberto Alesina
  • Francesco Trebbi


We explore the question of how political institutions and particularly democracy affect economic growth. Although empirical evidence of a positive effect of democracy on economic performance in the aggregate is weak, we provide evidence that democracy influences productivity growth in different sectors differently and that this differential effect may be one of the reasons of the ambiguity of the aggregate results. We provide evidence that political rights are conducive to growth in more advanced sectors of an economy, while they do not matter or have a negative effect on growth in sectors far away from the technological frontier. One channel of explanation goes through the beneficial effects of democracy and political rights on the freedom of entry in markets. Overall, democracies tend to have much lower entry barriers than autocracies, because political accountability reduces the protection of vested interests, and entry in turn is known to be generally more growth-enhancing in sectors that are closer to the technological frontier. We present empirical evidence that supports this entry explanation.

Suggested Citation

  • Philippe Aghion & Alberto Alesina & Francesco Trebbi, 2007. "Democracy, Technology, and Growth," NBER Working Papers 13180, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13180
    Note: POL EFG

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Philippe Aghion & Robin Burgess & Stephen J. Redding & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2008. "The Unequal Effects of Liberalization: Evidence from Dismantling the License Raj in India," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1397-1412, September.
    2. Giavazzi, Francesco & Tabellini, Guido, 2005. "Economic and political liberalizations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(7), pages 1297-1330, October.
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    4. Daron Acemoglu, 2008. "Oligarchic Versus Democratic Societies," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(1), pages 1-44, March.
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    6. Barro, Robert J, 1996. "Democracy and Growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 1-27, March.
    7. Adam Przeworski & Fernando Limongi, 1993. "Political Regimes and Economic Growth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(3), pages 51-69, Summer.
    8. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson & Pierre Yared, 2008. "Income and Democracy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 808-842, June.
    9. Barro, Robert J & Lee, Jong-Wha, 2001. "International Data on Educational Attainment: Updates and Implications," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 53(3), pages 541-563, July.
    10. Philippe Aghion & Alberto Alesina & Francesco Trebbi, 2004. "Endogenous Political Institutions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(2), pages 565-611.
    11. Edward L. Glaeser & Rafael La Porta & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer, 2004. "Do Institutions Cause Growth?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 271-303, September.
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    13. Robert J. Barro, 1999. "Determinants of Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(S6), pages 158-183, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Daron Acemoglu & Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2010. "Political Selection and Persistence of Bad Governments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 125(4), pages 1511-1575.
    2. Akerman, Anders & Larsson, Anna & Naghavi, Alireza, 2011. "Autocracies and Development in a Global Economy: A Tale of Two Elites," Research Papers in Economics 2011:24, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
    3. Madeeha Gohar Qureshi & Eatzaz Ahmed, 2012. "The Inter-linkages between Democracy and Per Capita GDP Growth: A Cross Country Analysis," PIDE-Working Papers 2012:85, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics.
    4. Aghion, Philippe & Akcigit, Ufuk & Howitt, Peter, 2014. "What Do We Learn From Schumpeterian Growth Theory?," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 0, pages 515-563 Elsevier.
    5. Gnidchenko, Andrey, 2010. "Defragmentation of Economic Growth with a Focus on Diversification: Evidence from Russian Economy," MPRA Paper 27113, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Sara Corujo & Marta Simões, 2012. "Democracy and Growth: Evidence for Portugal (1960–2001)," Transition Studies Review, Springer;Central Eastern European University Network (CEEUN), vol. 18(3), pages 512-528, March.
    7. Olper, Alessandro & Raimondi, Valentina, 2008. "Consitutional Rules and Agricultural Policy Outcomes," 2008 International Congress, August 26-29, 2008, Ghent, Belgium 43870, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    8. Wen, Jun & Hao, Yu & Feng, Gen-Fu & Chang, Chun-Ping, 2016. "Does government ideology influence environmental performance? Evidence based on a new dataset," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 232-246.
    9. Joseph P. Hughes & Loretta J. Mester, 2008. "Efficiency in Banking: Theory, Practice, and Evidence," Departmental Working Papers 200801, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
    10. Fedderke, Johannes & Klitgaard, Robert, 2013. "How Much Do Rights Matter?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 187-206.
    11. Hellmanzik, Christiane, 2013. "Democracy and economic outcomes: Evidence from the superstars of modern art," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 58-69.
    12. David Cuberes & Michał Jerzmanowski, 2009. "Democracy, Diversification and Growth Reversals," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(540), pages 1270-1302, October.
    13. Seim, Anna Larsson & Parente, Stephen L., 2013. "Democracy as a middle ground: A unified theory of development and political regimes," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 35-56.
    14. Che, Jiahua & Chung, Kim-Sau & Qiao, Xue, 2013. "The good, the bad, and the civil society," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 68-76.

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    JEL classification:

    • H7 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations

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