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Abstract

A panel study of over 100 countries from 1960 to 1995 finds that improvements in the standard of living predict increases in democracy, as measured by a subjective indicator of political freedom. Specifically, the propensity for democracy rises with per capita GDP, primary schooling, and a smaller gap between male and female primary attainment. For a given standard of living, democracy tends to fall with urbanization and with a greater reliance on natural resources. Democracy has a weak positive relation to country size. An increase in the middle class share of income predicts a rise in political rights. The apparently strong relation of democracy to colonial heritage mostly disappears when the economic variables are held constant. Similarly, the allowance for these economic variables weakens the interplay between democracy and religious affiliation. However, negative effects from Muslim and non-religious affiliations remain intact. The level of democracy tends to adjust over five years about one-quarter of the way toward the target value determined by the standard of living and the other explanatory variables.

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