The Globalization of Trade and Democracy, 1870-2000

56 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2005

See all articles by Ernesto Lopez Cordova

Ernesto Lopez Cordova

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)

Christopher M. Meissner

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Economics and Politics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: February 2005


We study whether international trade fosters democracy. The likely endogeneity between democracy and trade is addressed via the gravity model of trade, allowing us to obtain a measure of natural openness. This serves as our instrumental variable for actual trade openness à la Frankel and Romer (1999). We use this powerful instrument to obtain estimates of the causal impact of openness on democratization. A positive impact of openness on democracy is apparent from about 1895 onwards. Late nineteenth century trade globalization may have helped generate the "first wave" of democratization. Between 1920 and 1938 countries more exposed to international trade were less likely to become authoritarian. Finally, our post-World War II results suggest that a one standard deviation increase in trade with other countries could bring countries like Indonesia, Russia or Venezuela to be as democratic as the US, Great Britain or France. We also see some variation in the impact of openness by region and note that commodity exporters and petroleum producers do not seem to become more democratic by exporting more of such items.

Suggested Citation

Lopez-Cordova, Ernesto and Meissner, Christopher M., The Globalization of Trade and Democracy, 1870-2000 (February 2005). NBER Working Paper No. w11117, Available at SSRN:

Ernesto Lopez-Cordova

Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) ( email )

1300 New York Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20577
United States

Christopher M. Meissner (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Economics and Politics ( email )

Austin Robinson Building
Sidgwick Avenue
Cambridge, CB3 9DD
United Kingdom


National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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