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The Agricultural Roots of Autocracy and Democracy

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Document pages: 42 pages

Abstract: This paper hypothesizes that inherent agricultural land productivity explains contemporary levels of autocracy and democracy. In particular, intermediate levels of productivity are associated with democracy, whereas a legacy of either low or high agricultural productivity is associated with autocracy. Our cross-country empirical results using data from up to 148 countries support this notion. The finding of an inverted U-shaped relationship holds up to a battery of robustness tests, and are supported by sub- national data from the US and India. Moreover, the persistence of the association is documented by utilizing data from pre-colonial societies.

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