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Endogenous democracy: causal evidence from the potato productivity shock in the old world

Joan Barceló () and Guillermo Rosas

Political Science Research and Methods, 2021, vol. 9, issue 3, 650-657

Abstract: Despite a high cross-country correlation between development and democracy, it is difficult to gauge the impact of economic development on the probability that autocracies will transition to democracy because of endogeneity, especially due to reverse causation and omitted variable bias. Hence, whether development causes democracy remains a contested issue. We exploit exogeneity in the regional variation of potato cultivation along with the timing of the introduction of potatoes to the Old World (i.e., a potato productivity shock) to identify a causal effect of urbanization, a proxy for economic development, on democratization. Our results, which hold under sensitivity analyses that question the validity of the exclusion restriction, present new evidence of the existence of a causal effect of economic development on democracy.

Date: 2021
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