Why Democracy?

Where does democracy come from? What are the social, demographic, and economic factors that shape the onset of democracy in a country and its subsequent stability and subsequent development?

This is a question that has vexed social scientists for decades. A new study puts the question to perhaps its most systematic test yet.

Researchers from ETH Switzerland and Georgetown University used a statistical procedure called "extreme bounds analysis" to test the salience of 59 factors identified in more than three million previous statistical regressions (h/t: Charlotta Mellander). The study finds a "humbling result": Out of all those studies, all those variables, and all those millions of statistical analyses, just five factors predict the emergence of democracy, while four predict its survival.

Most surprising of all is the role played by economic growth, measured as gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. The study finds that GDP per capita is negatively associated with the transition to democracy. Contrary to "modernization theory", the study finds that richer countries are not more likely to become democracies. Richer countries are more likely to remain democracies once they become one.

Presented by

Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of CityLab.com and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More

Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative Class, Who's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here.

Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Dravet Syndrome is a severe form of epilepsy that affects children. Could marijuana oils alleviate their seizures?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Does This Child Need Marijuana?

Inside a family's fight to use marijuana oils to treat epilepsy

Video

A Miniature 1950s Utopia

A reclusive artist built this idealized suburb to grapple with his painful childhood memories.

Video

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her school. Then the Internet heard her story.

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

More in National

From This Author

Just In