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The economic, social and political consequences of democratic reforms. A quantitative and qualitative comparative analysis

Final Report Summary - COD (The economic, social and political consequences of democratic reforms. A quantitative and qualitative comparative analysis)

The COD research project examined the impact of democratization on (1) state consolidation, (2) economic growth and reforms and (3) social welfare, with a particular focus on non-Western areas (namely, Latin America, Africa, post-Communist Europe and Asia). Fully understanding the impact of democratic reforms in emerging and developing countries has crucial policy implications for such things as democracy promotion, conflict resolution, development policy and the likes. The research team centred around the Faculty of Political, Economic and Social Sciences, at the Università degli Studi di Milano, but it included several other scholars – including a number of young researchers at the early stages of their careers – from Italian and European universities. The project combined the use of different research methods (notably, large-N quantitative analysis and small-N qualitative comparisons or even case studies, in addition to Qualitative Comparative Analysis-QCA) and was by nature an interdisciplinary project, built around hypotheses connecting political phenomena with social and economic ones. This reflected in the diverse background of the members of the research group, which included political scientists, sociologists, economists, historians and methodologists.
The work carried out by the COD research team produced evidence that are quite varied – albeit, on balance, relatively supportive of the “democratic advantage” thesis. This reflects the complexity and scope of the COD project in terms of the economic, social and political phenomena of interest, the diverse world regions under investigation, and the different methodological approaches adopted. The quantitative studies that were conducted pointed to a clearly positive impact of democratization and democratic politics, particularly in terms of state consolidation and economic growth effects. Evidence derived from in-depth qualitative investigations, on the other hand, was more mixed, at times hinting at a negative effect of democracy, particularly with regard to the question of the social welfare impact of democratic reforms. Different findings, however, may also be due to different regional contexts, with a largely positive impact of democracy on economic growth in Africa, for example, and much more mixed evidence on the effect of democratic reforms on social protection in Latin America.
For example, one of the papers produced by the project challenges the widely-established view in political science that a sound and functioning state has to be in place before democracy can be introduced (“state first, and then democracy”). It examines the possibility that democratisation itself may play an important role in the further development and consolidation of a state, particularly in poor countries. It does so by empirically analyzing the relationship between, on the one hand, the level of democracy and the duration of a democratic system and, on the other hand, the key dimensions of the state, notably political order and administrative capacity. An analysis of 122 countries sheds light on the relationship between democratization and the state and shows that both a country’s level of democracy (alongside the duration of the democratic regime) positively affect the consolidation of the state (Giovanni Carbone – Vincenzo Memoli, “Does democratization foster state consolidation? Democratic rule, political order, and administrative capacity", Governance, 28 (1), 2015, pp. 5-24). Another paper examined the question of the impact of democracy on Africa’s post-2000 economic growth trends. It found that, while in other world regions democratic reforms have not always been beneficial to economic growth, in sub-Saharan Africa they have been instrumental to putting some restraints on established predatory practices and helping re-focus the attention of elected governments towards the provision of public goods and the promotion of economic development (Giovanni Carbone – Vincenzo Memoli – Lia Quartapelle, “Are lions democrats? The impact of democratization on economic growth in Africa, 1980-2010”, Democratization, 2016, 23.1 pp.27-48).