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Photo: “Election MG 3455“, by Rama, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 FR, Hue modified from the original

Rosenfeld, Bryn. “State Dependency and the Limits of Middle Class Support for Democracy.” Comparative Political Studies (2020): 0010414020938085.


Scholars have long viewed the middle class as an agent of democratization. This article provides the first rigorous cross-national analysis of middle class regime preferences, systematically investigating the importance of an authoritarian state’s economic relationship with the middle class. Using detailed survey data on individual employment histories from 27 post-communist countries, I show that, under autocracy, state-sector careers diminish support for democracy, especially among middle class professionals. The results are robust to changes in the measurement of both the middle class and democracy support. I also show that neither selection nor response bias, redistributive preferences, communist socialization, or transition experiences can explain the results. The findings imply that a state-supported middle class may, in fact, delay democratization.

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.