The determinants of democracy: a sensitivity analysis

Journal article

Rød, Espen Geelmuyden; Carl Henrik Knutsen & Håvard Hegre (2019) The determinants of democracy: a sensitivity analysis, Public Choice. DOI: 10.1007/s11127-019-00742-z.

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Numerous studies—operating with diverse model specifications, samples and empirical measures—suggest different economic, social, cultural, demographic, institutional and international determinants of democracy. We distinguish between democratization and democratic survival and test the sensitivities of 67 proposed determinants by varying the control variable set, democracy measure, and sample time period. Furthermore, we go beyond existing sensitivity analyses and unpack the aggregate results by analyzing how theoretically motivated control variables affect sensitivity for two prominent determinants in the democracy literature: income and Islam. Overall, our results reveal a far larger number of robust determinants of democratization than of democratic survival. For democratic survival, the only robust factors are income and a law-abiding bureaucracy. In addition, our results highlight uncertainty surrounding the relationship between income and democratization, but show that broader development processes enhance the chances of democratization. Moreover, chances of democratization are lower in countries with large Muslim populations, but that relationship is sensitive to controlling for natural resources, education and neighborhood characteristics. Other results of the sensitivity analysis show that political protests, a democratic neighborhood, and the global proportion of democracies positively influence democratization, while natural resources, majoritarian systems, and long-tenured leaders make countries less likely to democratize.

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