The authors show that economic development increases the probability that a country will undergo a transition to democracy. These results contradict the finding of Przeworski and his associates, that development causes democracy to last but not to come into existence in the first place. By dealing adequately with problems of sample selection and model specification, the authors discover that economic growth does cause nondemocracies to democratize. They show that the effect of economic development on the probability of a transition to democracy in the hundred years between the mid-nineteenth century and World War II was substantial, indeed, even stronger than its effect on democratic stability. They also show that, in more recent decades, some countries that developed but remained dictatorships would, because of their development, be expected to democratize in as few as three years after achieving a per capita income of $12,000 per capita.
Carles Boix is an associate professor of political science at the University of Chicago. His books include Political Parties, Growth and Equality (1998,), L'Obertura Catalana (2002), and Democracy and Redistribution (2003). He is currently working on a new book manuscript entitled, “The Birth of Party Democracy,” which explores the political conditions that led to the emergence of the party systems and electoral institutions of advanced democracies at the turn of the twentieth century.
Susan C. Stokes is a professor of political science at the University of Chicago and director of the Chicago Center on Democracy. She is the author of Mandates and Democracy: Neoliberalism by Surprise in Latin America (2001) and the editor of Public Support for Market Reforms in New Democracies (2001). She is currently doing research into political clientelism and vote buying.
* We are grateful for comments to David Brown, Jose Antonio Cheibub, Matt Cleary, Jorge Dominguez, Stathis Kalyvas, David Laitin, Fernando Limongi, Luis Fernando Medina, Adam Przeworski, Joan Serra, Lisa Wedeen, and Pete Wolfe.