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Economic Growth and Political Survival

Paul J. Burke1

1Australian National University

Citation Information: The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics. Volume 12, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 1935-1690, DOI: 10.1515/1935-1690.2398, March 2012

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Using data for 162 countries for the period 1962-2006, this paper examines the importance of the national economic growth rate for the ability of a national leader to retain his or her position. To address the potential endogeneity of economic growth, I use commodity prices, export partner incomes, precipitation, and temperature to instrument for a country’s growth rate. The results indicate that faster economic growth increases the short-run likelihood that leaders will remain in office. The results are robust to controlling for a host of leader-, party-, and country-level variables. The effect of growth on the likelihood of leader exits appears to be generally similar across both democracies and autocracies. Economic growth has the largest impact on the likelihood of regular leader exits rather than irregular exits such as coups. Evidence is also presented on whether economic growth affects the likelihood that leaders employ oppressive tactics against opponents.

Keywords: economic growth; politics; political survival; political change; leader turnover

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