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Empirical Linkages Between Democracy and Economic Growth

  • John F. Helliwell

Using cross-sectional and pooled data for up to 125 countries over the period from 1960 to 1985, this paper evaluates the two-way linkages between democracy and economic growth. The effects of income on democracy are found to be robust and positive. The effects of several measures of democracy on growth are assessed in a comparative growth framework in which growth of per capita GDP depends negatively on initial income levels, as implied by the convergence hypothesis, and positively on rates of investment in physical and human capital. Adjusting for the simultaneous determination of income and democracy makes the estimated direct effect of democracy on subsequent economic growth negative but insignificant. Allowing for the possible positive indirect effect of democracy on income, flowing through the positive effect of democracy on education and investment, tends to offset the negative direct effect of democracy on economic growth. The general result of the growth analysis is that it is still not possible to identify any systematic net effects of democracy on subsequent economic growth.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4066.

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Date of creation: May 1992
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as British Journal of Political Science, vol. 24, pp. 225-248, April 1994
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4066
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  1. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Are Nonconvexities Important for Understanding Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 97-103, May.
  2. Alesina, Alberto F & Rodrik, Dani, 1991. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 565, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Barro, R.J., 1989. "Economic Growth In A Cross Section Of Countries," RCER Working Papers 201, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  4. Alberto Alesina & Sule Ozler & Nouriel Roubini & Phillip Swagel, 1992. "Political Instability and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 4173, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Backus, David K. & Kehoe, Patrick J. & Kehoe, Timothy J., 1992. "In search of scale effects in trade and growth," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 377-409, December.
  6. Mankiw, N Gregory & Romer, David & Weil, David N, 1992. "A Contribution to the Empirics of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(2), pages 407-37, May.
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  8. Helpman, E., 1991. "Endogenous Macroeconomic Growth Theory," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1570, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
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  10. John F. Helliwell & Alan Chung, 1991. "Macroeconomic Convergence: International Transmission of Growth and Technical Progress," NBER Chapters, in: International Economic Transactions: Issues in Measurement and Empirical Research, pages 388-436 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Romer, Paul M, 1986. "Increasing Returns and Long-run Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(5), pages 1002-37, October.
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  18. J. Bradford De Long, . "Productivity Growth, Convergence, and Welfare: Comment," J. Bradford De Long's Working Papers _129, University of California at Berkeley, Economics Department.
  19. repec:fth:harver:1532 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1990. "Why Doesn't Capital Flow from Rich to Poor Countries?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 92-96, May.
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