Varieties of Democratic Diffusion: Colonial and Neighbor Networks
Posted: 3 Jun 2015 Last revised: 25 Sep 2017
Date Written: June 1, 2016
Numerous studies have reported that countries tend to become more similar to their immediate geographic neighbors with respect to democracy. We show that a similar process of mutual adjustment can be found within very different international networks: geographically dispersed colonial empires, especially those that were founded early and lasted a century or more. The causal mechanisms for the diffusion of democracy are notoriously vague, but the existence of diffusion within colonial networks helps narrow the possibilities. Where these relationships are significant, the net tendency is overwhelmingly convergence: colonies have tended to democratize more quickly than similar countries that were never colonies, and some colonizers have tended to democratize more slowly than similar countries that never had colonies. We distinguish between effects that took place during colonial rule and later relations between former colonies and their colonizers. These estimates also confirm, and control for, convergence among immediate neighbors, using an electoral democracy index from the Varieties of Democracy project, which includes historical democracy ratings for colonies.
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