Sovereign debt and regime type: Reconsidering the democratic advantage

Emily Beaulieu, Gary W. Cox, Sebastian Saiegh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


The literature exploiting historical data generally supports the democratic advantage thesis, which holds that democracies can sell more bonds on better terms than their authoritarian counterparts. However, studies of more recenta-and extensivea-data sets find that democracies have received no more favorable bond ratings from credit rating agencies than otherwise similar autocracies; and have been no less prone to default. These findings raise the question: where is the democratic advantage? Our answer is that previous assessments of the democratic advantage have typically (1) ignored the democratic advantage in credit access; (2) failed to account for selection effects; and (3) treated GDP per capita as an exogenous variable, ignoring the many arguments that suggest economic development is endogenous to political institutions. We develop an estimator of how regime type affects credit access and credit ratings analogous to the reservation wage model of labor supply and treat GDP per capita as an endogenous variable. Our findings indicate that the democratic advantage in the postwar era has two components: first, better access to credit (most autocracies cannot even enter the international bond markets); and second, better ratings, once propensity to enter the market is controlled and GDP per capita is endogenized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)709-738
Number of pages30
JournalInternational Organization
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Law


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