Constitutional Political Economy

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 121–136 | Cite as

Income and the stability of democracy: Pushing beyond the borders of logic to explain a strong correlation?

  • Federico Traversa
Original Paper


The statistical relationship between economic development and duration of democracy is one of the strongest in Political Science. Nevertheless, the theoretical mechanisms underlying this statistical link have been debated for decades. Adam Przeworski has proposed the simplest explanation, by indicating that wealth itself increases the probability of sustaining democracy, economic development and democratic stability are thus directly related. This paper discusses whether the assumptions of the influential model of Przeworski (Public Choice, 123(3–4):253–273. doi: 10.1007/s11127-005-7163-4, 2005) are plausible, and extends the analysis to a setting in which: (a) absolute per capita income varies; (b) people have preference for democracy independently of income; and (c) consumption is subject to diminishing marginal utility. The analysis demonstrates that the mechanics proposed by Przeworski (2005) are particularly recursive. One of the assumptions in his model implies in and of itself the final conclusion of the analysis, and if this contentious cornerstone is removed or slightly changed, it is no longer possible to conclude that economic development could create per se any democratic equilibrium.


Democratic Stability Economic Development Relative Income Mechanism 



Author would like to thank two anonymous referees and the editor for their valuable comments and suggestions. I also thank Anjini Mishra for helpful suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidad de la RepúblicaMontevideoUruguay

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