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Photo: “Protesting against PRI“, by Gabriel Saldana, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Miller, Michael K. “Electoral authoritarianism and human development.” Comparative Political Studies 48, no. 12 (2015): 1526-1562.


Do autocratic institutions matter for the welfare of average citizens? Despite the large literature comparing democracies and autocracies, we know little about how human development outcomes differ among autocratic types. Contrary to conventional wisdom, this article argues that contested autocratic elections promote human development by improving state accountability and capacity. Using an instrumental variables setup, I show that the presence and history of multiparty autocratic elections predict significantly better outcomes on health, education, gender equality, and basic freedoms relative to non-electoral autocracy. In fact, the effects on health and education are as strong as the effects of democracy. In contrast, legislatures and parties without multiparty elections produce slightly negative outcomes because these institutions chiefly concern elite cooptation. The results have major implications for the study of autocracy, the political economy of development, and the welfare effects of international election promotion.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.