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Income and Democracy: Lipset's Law Inverted


  • Ghada Fayad
  • Robert H. Bates
  • Anke Hoeffler


In this article, we revisit Lipset’s law (Lipset 1959), which posits a positive and significant relationship between income and democracy. Using dynamic panel data estimation techniques that account for short-run cross-country heterogeneity in the relationship between income and democracy and that correct for potential cross-section error dependence, we overturn the literature's recent set of findings of the absence of any significant relationship between income and democracy and in a surprising manner: We find a significant and negative relationship between income and democracy: higher/lower incomes per capita hinder/trigger democratization. We attribute this result to the nature of the tax base. Decomposing overall income per capita into its resource and non-resource components, we find that the coefficient on the latter is positive and significant while that on the former is significant but negative. In the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) portion of the sample where the relationship runs from political institutions – i.e. democracy – to economic performance – i.e. income, democracy is found to positively and significantly affect income per capita, which slowly converge to its long-run value as predicted by current democracy levels: SSA countries may thus be currently too democratic to what their income levels suggest.

Suggested Citation

  • Ghada Fayad & Robert H. Bates & Anke Hoeffler, 2011. "Income and Democracy: Lipset's Law Inverted," OxCarre Working Papers 061, Oxford Centre for the Analysis of Resource Rich Economies, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:oxcrwp:061

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Carolyn Chisadza & Manoel Bittencourt, 2014. "Is Democracy Eluding Sub-Saharan Africa?," Working Papers 201403, University of Pretoria, Department of Economics.
    2. Fabrice Murtin & Romain Wacziarg, 2014. "The democratic transition," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 141-181, June.

    More about this item


    income; democracy; Sub-Saharan Africa; Dynammic panel data; parameter heterogeneity; Cross-section dependence;

    JEL classification:

    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • O55 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Africa

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