Institut for Statskundskab

Economic crisis, natural resources, and irregular leader removal in autocracies

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Why do autocratic leaders escape revolution, coups, and assassination during times of economic crisis? I argue that the spike in natural resource revenues since the 1960s has increased autocratic crisis resilience. The availability of this alternative revenue stream provides autocratic leaders with a constant inflow of money, increases their ability to repress dissent, and improves their access to international credit. Extending the analysis back to 1875, I show that the relationship between economic crisis and irregular leader removal in autocracies is strong and robust before the 1960s, but disappears in more recent periods. Interaction analyses confirm that the effects of economic crisis are moderated by natural resource income. These findings are robust to an array of alternative specifications, including analyses that address endogeneity concerns via instrumental variable (IV) estimation. A more particular examination of the theoretical mechanisms also supports the argument. These findings challenge widely held beliefs in the literature of a strong, direct effect of economic crisis on autocratic leader survival; they explain why economic crisis seems to destabilize some autocrats, but not others.

TidsskriftInternational Studies Quarterly
Sider (fra-til)726-741
Antal sider16
StatusUdgivet - sep. 2019

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