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Keeping Dictators Honest: the Role of Population Concentration


  • Quoc-Anh Do

    () (School of Economics, Singapore Management University)

  • Filipe R. Campante

    () (John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University)


In order to explain the apparently paradoxical presence of acceptable governance in many non-democratic regimes, economists and political scientists have focused mostly on institutions acting as de facto checks and balances. In this paper, we propose that population plays a similar role in guaranteeing the quality of governance and redistribution. around the policy making center serves as an insurgency threat to a dictatorship, inducing it to yield to more redistribution and better governance. We bring this centered concept of population concentration to the data through the Centered Index of Spatial Concentration developed by Do & Campante (2008). The evidence supports our predictions: only in the sample of autocracies, population concentration around the capital city is positively associated with better governance and more redistribution (proxied by post-tax inequality), in OLS and IV regressions. Finally, we provide arguments to dismiss possible reverse causation as well as alternative, non-political economy explanations of such regularity, discuss the general applicability of our index and conclude with policy implications.

Suggested Citation

  • Quoc-Anh Do & Filipe R. Campante, 2009. "Keeping Dictators Honest: the Role of Population Concentration," Working Papers 01-2009, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:siu:wpaper:01-2009

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson, 2000. "Why Did the West Extend the Franchise? Democracy, Inequality, and Growth in Historical Perspective," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1167-1199.
    2. Berger, Helge & Spoerer, Mark, 2001. "Economic Crises And The European Revolutions Of 1848," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(02), pages 293-326, June.
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    5. Glaeser, Edward L. & Kahn, Matthew E., 2004. "Sprawl and urban growth," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics,in: J. V. Henderson & J. F. Thisse (ed.), Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 56, pages 2481-2527 Elsevier.
    6. Filipe R. Campante & Davin Chor & Quoc-Anh Do, 2009. "Instability And The Incentives For Corruption," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 21(1), pages 42-92, March.
    7. Alberto F. Ades & Edward L. Glaeser, 1995. "Trade and Circuses: Explaining Urban Giants," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(1), pages 195-227.
    8. Timothy Besley & Masayuki Kudamatsu, 2007. "Making Autocracy Work," STICERD - Development Economics Papers - From 2008 this series has been superseded by Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers 48, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
    9. Campante, Filipe & Do, Quoc-Anh, 2007. "Inequality, Redistribution, and Population," Working Paper Series rwp07-046, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    10. Davin Chor & Do Quoc-Anh & Filipe R Campante, 2008. "Instability and Incentives for Corruption," Macroeconomics Working Papers 22070, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
    11. Roland G. Fryer Jr. & Richard Holden, 2011. "Measuring the Compactness of Political Districting Plans," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(3), pages 493-535.
    12. Grossman, Herschel I & Iyigun, Murat F, 1997. "Population Increase and the End of Colonialism," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 64(255), pages 483-493, August.
    13. Campante, Filipe Robin & Do, Quoc-Anh, 2009. "A Centered Index of Spatial Concentration: Axiomatic Approach with an Application to Population and Capital Cities," Scholarly Articles 4481653, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
    14. C. A. Hidalgo & B. Klinger & A. -L. Barabasi & R. Hausmann, 2007. "The Product Space Conditions the Development of Nations," Papers 0708.2090,
    15. Berger, Helge & Spoerer, Mark, 2001. "Economic crises and the European revolutions of 1848," Munich Reprints in Economics 15926, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Toke Aidt & Gabriel Leon & Max Satchell, 2017. "The Social Dynamics of Collective Action: Evidence from the Captain Swing Riots, 1830-31," CESifo Working Paper Series 6773, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Toke Aidt & Gabriel Leon, 2014. "The Democratic Window of Opportunity: Evidence from Riots in Sub-Saharan Africa," CESifo Working Paper Series 4884, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Aidt, T. S. & Leon, G. & Satchell, M., 2017. "The Social Dynamics of Collective Action: Evidence from the Captain Swing Riots, 1830-31," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1751, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.

    More about this item


    Capital Cities; Gravity; Governance; Inequality; Redistribution; Population Concentration; Revolutions; Harmonic Functions; Axiomatics;

    JEL classification:

    • C43 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Index Numbers and Aggregation
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D74 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions
    • J19 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Other
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population


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