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Political Man on Horseback Coups and Development

date Date: April 5, 2016
date Author(s): Erik Meyersson
date Affiliation: Stockholm School of Economics

In this paper I examine the development effects of coups. I first show that coups overthrowing democratically-elected leaders imply a different kind of event than those overthrowing autocratic leaders, and that these differences relate to the implementation of authoritarian institutions following a coup in a democracy. Secondly, I address the endogeneity of coups by comparing the growth consequences of failed and successful coups as well as implementing matching and panel data methods, which yield similar results. Although coups taking place in already autocratic countries show imprecise and sometimes positive effects on economic growth, in democracies their effects are distinctly detrimental. I find no evidence that these results are symptomatic of alternative hypothesis involving the effects of failed coups or political transitions. Thirdly, when overthrowing democratic leaders, coups not only fail to promote economic reforms or stop the occurrence of economic crises and political instability, but they also have substantial negative effects across a number of standard growth-related outcomes including health, education, and investment.

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