Rain and the Democratic Window of Opportunity

Authors

  • Markus Brückner,

    1. Dept. of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Ramon Trias Fargas 25, Barcelona 08005, Spain; markus.bruckner@adelaide.edu.au
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  • Antonio Ciccone

    1. Dept. of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra-ICREA, Ramon Trias Fargas 25, Barcelona 08005, Spain and Barcelona GSE; antonio.ciccone@upf.edu
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    • We are grateful to Daron Acemoglu, Steven Berry, Masayuki Kudamatsu, and four referees for their helpful comments. Ciccone gratefully acknowledges research support from the Barcelona GSE, CREI, FEDEA-BBVA, and Spanish Ministry of Science Grants SEJ2007-64340 and ECO2008-02779.


Abstract

We show that democratic change may be triggered by transitory economic shocks. Our approach uses within-country variation in rainfall as a source of transitory shocks to sub-Saharan African economies. We find that negative rainfall shocks are followed by significant improvement in democratic institutions. This result is consistent with the economic approach to political transitions, where transitory negative shocks can open a window of opportunity for democratic improvement. Instrumental variables estimates indicate that following a transitory negative income shock of 1 percent, democracy scores improve by 0.9 percentage points and the probability of a democratic transition increases by 1.3 percentage points.

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