American Political Science Review

Research Article

Democracy, Development, and the International System


a1 Princeton University


Resolving a controversy on the relationship of development to democratization, this article expands the time period under study with panel data running from the early nineteenth century (a time where hardly any country was democratic) to the end of the twentieth century, and shows a positive and significant effect of income on the likelihood of democratic transitions and democratic consolidations. The estimations hold after I control for country and time effects and instrument for income. Results reveal that the effect of income varies across income levels and across eras. First, income has a decreasing marginal effect on democratization. In already developed (and democratized) countries, any extra growth has no further effect on the level of democracy. Second, the structure of the international system affects the resources and strategies of pro-authoritarian and pro-democratic factions in client states. The proportion of liberal democracies peaks under international orders governed by democratic hegemons, such as the post–Cold War period, and bottoms out when authoritarian great powers such as the Holy Alliance control the world system.

(Online publication November 03 2011)


c1 Carles Boix is Robert Garrett Professor of Politics and Public Affairs, Department of Politics and Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544 (


I thank Alícia Adserà, Joanne Gowa, Robert Keohane, Elena Nikolova, Gerard Padró, Susan Stokes, Daniel Treisman, and participants in the Princeton/Center for the Study of Democratic Politics Seminar, April 2010, and the Yale Workshop on Dictatorships, June 2010, for their comments. I am also grateful for the research support of Raymond Hicks at the Niehaus Center for Globalization and Governance.