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Rainfall, Human Capital, and Democracy

Stephen Haber

Stanford University - Hoover Institution and Political Science

Victor A. Menaldo

University of Washington - Department of Political Science

April 2, 2011

Why are some societies characterized by enduring democracy while other societies are persistently autocratic? We show that there is a systematic, non-linear relationship between rainfall levels and regime types in the post-World War II world: stable democracies overwhelmingly cluster in a band of moderate rainfall (550 to 1300 mm of precipitation per year); persistent autocracies overwhelmingly cluster in deserts and semi-arid environments (0 to 550 mm per year) and in the tropics (above 1300 mm per year). We also show that rainfall does not work on regime types directly, but does so through the its impact on the level and distribution of human capital. Specifically, crops that are both easily storable and exhibit modest economies of scale in production grow well under moderate amounts of rainfall. The modal production unit is a family farm that can accumulate surpluses. In such an economy there are incentives to make intergenerational investments in human capital. A high level and broad distribution of human capital makes democratic consolidation more likely.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 70

Keywords: Democracy, Geographical Determinants, Middle East and North Africa, Education

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Date posted: August 28, 2010 ; Last revised: April 27, 2011

Suggested Citation

Haber, Stephen and Menaldo, Victor A., Rainfall, Human Capital, and Democracy (April 2, 2011). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1667332 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1667332

Contact Information

Stephen H. Haber
Stanford University - Hoover Institution and Political Science ( email )
Stanford, CA 94305
United States
Victor A. Menaldo (Contact Author)
University of Washington - Department of Political Science ( email )
101 Gowen Hall
Box 353530
Seattle, WA 98195
United States
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