Research Handbook on Democracy and Development
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Research Handbook on Democracy and Development

Edited by Gordon Crawford and Abdul-Gafaru Abdulai

Exploring and updating the controversial debates about the relationship between democracy and development, this Research Handbook provides clarification on the complex and nuanced interlinkages between political regime type and socio-economic development. Distinguished scholars examine a broad range of issues from multidisciplinary perspectives across Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
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Chapter 6: Autocracy and variations in economic development outcomes

Carl Henrik Knutsen


I discuss and analyze the vast variation in development outcomes among autocracies, focusing on economic growth. I highlight plausible explanations of this variation pertaining to features of the leader, institutions, or the regime’s support coalition. Next, by analyzing data from more than 180 polities and with time series extending back to 1789, I present descriptive patterns and tests corroborating that variation in growth - in the shorter and longer term, across and within countries - is higher among autocracies than democracies. Finally, I assess the explanations for why some autocracies have higher growth than others. This exercise suggests that single-party autocracies have higher growth than personalist regimes and monarchies. Higher degrees of party institutionalization also correlate positively with growth. I find several (surprising) negative and null results. Notably, neither stronger legislative constraints on the autocrat nor the size of an autocratic regime’s support coalition correlate positively with growth.

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