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Does Foreign Aid Promote Democracy?

IRIS Center Working Paper No. 238

34 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2001  

Stephen Knack

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG)

Date Written: September 2000


Aid potentially can contribute to democratization in several ways: (1) through technical assistance focusing on electoral processes, the strengthening of legislatures and judiciaries as checks on executive power, and the promotion of civil society organizations, including a free press; (2) through conditionality; and (3) by improving education and increasing per capita incomes, which research shows are conducive to democratization. This study provides a multivariate analysis of the impact of aid on democratization in a large sample of recipient nations over the 1975-96 period. Using several alternative democracy indexes and measures of aid intensity, no evidence is found that aid promotes democracy. This result is robust to alternative model specifications and estimation techniques, including the use of exogenous instruments for aid.

Keywords: democracy, aid, foreign aid

Suggested Citation

Knack, Stephen, Does Foreign Aid Promote Democracy? (September 2000). IRIS Center Working Paper No. 238. Available at SSRN: or

Stephen Knack (Contact Author)

World Bank - Development Research Group (DECRG) ( email )

1818 H. Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States
202-458-9712 (Phone)


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