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Reevaluating the Modernization Hypothesis

  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Simon Johnson
  • James A. Robinson
  • Pierre Yared

This paper revisits and critically reevaluates the widely-accepted modernization hypothesis which claims that per capita income causes the creation and the consolidation of democracy. We argue that existing studies find support for this hypothesis because they fail to control for the presence of omitted variables. There are many underlying historical factors that affect both the level of income per capita and the likelihood of democracy in a country, and failing to control for these factors may introduce a spurious relationship between income and democracy. We show that controlling for these historical factors by including fixed country effects removes the correlation between income and democracy, as well as the correlation between income and the likelihood of transitions to and from democratic regimes. We argue that this evidence is consistent with another well-established approach in political science, which emphasizes how events during critical historical junctures can lead to divergent political-economic development paths, some leading to prosperity and democracy, others to relative poverty and non-democracy. We present evidence in favor of this interpretation by documenting that the fixed effects we estimate in the post-war sample are strongly associated with historical variables that have previously been used to explain diverging development paths within the former colonial world.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13334.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13334.

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Date of creation: Aug 2007
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Publication status: published as Acemoglu, Daron & Johnson, Simon & Robinson, James A. & Yared, Pierre, 2009. "Reevaluating the modernization hypothesis," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(8), pages 1043-1058, November.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13334
Note: POL EFG DAE
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  1. Anderson, T. W. & Hsiao, Cheng, 1982. "Formulation and estimation of dynamic models using panel data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 47-82, January.
  2. repec:oup:restud:v:47:y:1980:i:1:p:225-38 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Acemoglu, Daron & Johnson, Simon & Robinson, James A & Yared, Pierre, 2005. "Income and Democracy," CEPR Discussion Papers 5273, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
  5. Acemoglu,Daron & Robinson,James A., 2009. "Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521671422, 1.
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  12. Papaioannou, Elias & Siourounis, Gregorios, 2008. "Economic and social factors driving the third wave of democratization," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 365-387, September.
  13. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "Reversal of Fortune: Geography and Institutions in the Making of the Modern World Income Distribution," NBER Working Papers 8460, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Green, Donald P. & Kim, Soo Yeon & Yoon, David H., 2001. "Dirty Pool," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(02), pages 441-468, March.
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