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Overcoming Autocratic Legacies

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THE GLOBAL ADVANCE OF DEMOCRACY is largely a developing world phenomenon. The median per capita income of the 86 countries currently undergoing democratic transitions is $985. Seventy-five percent of these democratizers are classified as low- or lower-middle income by the World Bank. Nearly 60 percent are in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

Unsurprisingly, both the democratization and development paths are filled with potholes. Forty-five percent of all contemporary democratizers have experienced at least one episode of democratic backsliding (though two-thirds of these resumed their positive advance within three years). Eight in ten reversals to autocracy occur in democratizers experiencing negative growth. Low-income countries, meanwhile, face negative growth. The median annual growth of 1.46 percent for this group since 1980 is nearly a full percentage point below wealthier cohorts. Poor countries are also notoriously more vulnerable to economic volatility, conflict and humanitarian crisis. In short, there are compelling reasons for anyone interested in either democracy or development to consider the inter-linkages between the two phenomena

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