Democratic Selection and the Role of Economic Clout

50 Pages Posted: 28 Nov 2021 Last revised: 21 Feb 2023

Date Written: January 10, 2023


Are some autocracies more likely to be pressured by the international community toward democratization than others? And are those regimes more likely to democratize as a result? This article demonstrates that “economic clout” is a crucial factor in determining whether the international community will pressure an autocracy to democratize, by applying democratic sanctions after a “trigger event”. Economic clout is defined as the extent of economic influence over the international community by an autocratic regime. High levels of economic clout (HEC) prompt international trade partners not to pressure the regime to democratize in order to maintain the favorable economic status quo that allows them to benefit from the economic gains from trade with the autocracy, thus not incurring in extra costs. By employing a staggered Difference-in-Differences design with a multi-value treatment, this article provides strong empirical evidence that this selection effect has consequences for the democratization prospects of autocracies.

Keywords: democratization, comparative politics, protest, foreign trade, rational choice, political economy

Suggested Citation

Leão, Catarina, Democratic Selection and the Role of Economic Clout (January 10, 2023). Available at SSRN: or

Catarina Leão (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Manor Road
Oxford, OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom


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