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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. Robert J. Barro & Jong-Wha Lee, 2000. "International Data on Educational Attainment Updates and Implications," NBER Working Papers 7911, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2000. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 7771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2002. "Reversal Of Fortune: Geography And Institutions In The Making Of The Modern World Income Distribution," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(4), pages 1231-1294, November.
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  7. Green, Donald P. & Kim, Soo Yeon & Yoon, David H., 2001. "Dirty Pool," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(02), pages 441-468, March.
  8. 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.
  9. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson & Pierre Yared, 2008. "Income and Democracy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 808-42, June.
  10. 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.
  11. Zvi Griliches & Jerry A. Hausman, 1984. "Errors in Variables in Panel Data," NBER Technical Working Papers 0037, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Moulton, Brent R., 1986. "Random group effects and the precision of regression estimates," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 385-397, August.
  13. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," NBER Working Papers 8841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Mundlak, Yair, 1978. "On the Pooling of Time Series and Cross Section Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(1), pages 69-85, January.
  15. Hahn, Jinyong & Hausman, Jerry & Kuersteiner, Guido, 2007. "Long difference instrumental variables estimation for dynamic panel models with fixed effects," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 140(2), pages 574-617, October.
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