Democratization and Economic Prosperity

25 Pages Posted: 10 Apr 2013

See all articles by Daniel de Kadt

Daniel de Kadt

University of California, Merced

Stephen Wittels

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Political Science

Date Written: April 6, 2013


What explains cross-national variation in economic prosperity? One line of ongoing research explores whether political institutions associated with democracy are important determinants. Devising accurate tests of this relationship is non-trivial; while the timing of democratic transitions is arguably stochastic, the process by which countries adopt democratic political practices may be endogenous to economic outcomes. We identify the e ect of democratization by comparing the economic output of democratized units with the output of synthetic counterfactuals of these same units under a condition of no democratic transition. We focus on reforms that took place in Africa in the 1990s using balanced panel data for the period 1975-2008. Our empirical approach yields an unbiased estimate (in expectation) of the e ffect of democratization for each individual treated unit under relatively modest assumptions. We find that, in the African context, formal democratization has highly heterogeneous but substantive e ffects on economic prosperity.

Keywords: Africa, democratization, economic output, heterogeneous effects

Suggested Citation

de Kadt, Daniel and Wittels, Stephen, Democratization and Economic Prosperity (April 6, 2013). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2013-10, Available at SSRN: or

Daniel De Kadt (Contact Author)

University of California, Merced ( email )

P.O. Box 2039
Merced, CA 95344
United States

Stephen Wittels

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States


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