Infrastructure Investments: A Regime Factor

John Gerring, Haakon Gjerløw and Carl Henrik Knutsen

V-Dem Working Paper 2020: 99


We argue that autocratic leaders are more empowered and more strongly motivated than democratic leaders to achieve comprehensive and rapid industrialization. This is because democracies and autocracies differ according to their social bases of support, their perceived security threats, and their available policy tools. We test this hypothesis with a dataset spanning 200 years, extending back to the early 19th century, using different measures tapping into different aspects of industrialization. After a comprehensive series of tests, we conclude that industrialization stands out as one of the few areas where autocracies may enjoy a significant advantage over democracies.