Awakening Leviathan: The effect of democracy on state capacity

Erik Wang, Yiqing Xu

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Recent debates over the relative importance of democracy and state capacity for human development have led to the prevailing view that a strong state must be built before the introduction of democracy. Our research challenges this “sequencing approach” in international development. Using a global panel of countries over 50 years, we document that democracy has a substantial, positive causal effect on state capacity with identification strategies that adjust for pre-treatment dynamics. The state-enhancing effect of democracy is robust to alternative measures of key variables, a large set of time-varying confounders and an instrumental variable design that leverages variation in regional democratic diffusions. Subsequent analysis suggests contestation, rather than participation, as a potential causal mechanism. Our findings contribute to the burgeoning literature on sources of state capacity in the developing world and yield practical implications for democracy assistance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-7
    JournalResearch and Politics
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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