Does democracy cause growth? A meta-analysis (of 2000 regressions)

Published in European Journal of Political Economy, Volume 61, 2020

With Domenico Rossignoli (UCSC) and Mario A. Maggioni (UCSC)

Abstract

The relationship between democracy and economic growth has been widely debated in the social sciences with contrasting results. We apply a meta-analytical framework surveying 188 studies (2047 models) covering 36 years of research in the field. We also compare the effect of democracy on growth with the effect of human capital on growth in a sub-sample of 111 studies (875 models). Our findings suggest that democracy has a positive and direct effect on economic growth beyond the reach of publication bias, albeit weaker (about one third) of that of human capital. Further, the growth effect of democracy appears to be stronger in more recent papers not surveyed in Doucouliagos and Ulubaşoğlu (2008). Finally, we show that the heterogeneity in the reported results is mainly driven by spatial and temporal differences in the samples, indicating that the democracy and growth nexus is not homogeneous across world regions and decades.