Destined for Democracy? Labour Markets and Political Change in Colonial British America
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) - Office of the Chief Economist
July 27, 2011
This paper proposes a new explanation for the emergence of democratic institutions: elites may extend the right to vote to the masses in order to attract migrant workers. I argue that representative assemblies serve as a commitment device for any promises made to labourers by those in power, and test the argument on a new political and economic data set from the thirteen British American colonies. The results suggest that colonies that relied on white migrant labour, rather than slaves, had better representative institutions. These findings are not driven by alternative factors identified in the literature, such as inequality or initial conditions, and survive a battery of validity checks.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 94
Keywords: democratization, institutions, colonialism
JEL Classification: D72, D78, N41
Date posted: July 27, 2011 ; Last revised: November 18, 2014
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