British Journal of Political Science


Oil and Autocratic Regime Survival

Joseph Wright, Erica Frantz and Barbara Geddes *


This article uncovers a new mechanism linking oil wealth to autocratic regime survival: the investigation tests whether increases in oil wealth improve the survival of autocracies by lowering the chances of democratization, reducing the risk of transition to subsequent dictatorship, or both. Using a new measure of autocratic durability shows that, once models allow for unit effects, oil wealth promotes autocratic survival by lowering the risk of ouster by rival autocratic groups. Evidence also indicates that oil income increases military spending in dictatorships, which suggests that increasing oil wealth may deter coups that could have caused a regime collapse.


*  Pennsylvania State University; Bridgewater State University; UCLA (emails:;; and The authors are grateful to Jørgen Andersen, Ben Bagozzi, Xun Cao, Matt Golder, James Honaker, Michael Ross, John Zaller, and Chris Zorn for helpful conversations, and thank one of the Editors and three anonymous reviewers for excellent feedback. Finally, they wish to thank Victor Menaldo for sharing data and replication code. This research has been supported by NSF-BCS #0904463 and NSF-BCS #0904478. Upon publication replication materials will be posted at Dataverse and on Joseph Wright's website. An On-line appendix A-E supplementary material is available at: