Democracy and Economic Well-Being

I have recently started the Data Management and Visualization course on Coursera.  As part of this course I will be conducting research and will be writing posts explaining my work.  This post is the first in the series of posts explaining my research project.

My Research Question & Hypothesis

For this research project I will be exploring what is the relationship between the level of openness of a society and the economic well-being of the citizens. My hypothesis is that countries with a more open society will have a higher level of economic well-being.

Data Used

The data I will be using is a subset of the Gapminder Project’s data. I measure the economic well-being by the 2010 per-capita GDP.  This data has been adjusted to replace purchasing power parity and is in constant 2000 US dollars.  I will measure the level of openness with the 2009 Democracy score (Polity).  This data comes from the Polity IV Project and is a summary measure of a country’s democratic and free nature. It ranges from -10 (an autocracy) to 10 (full democracy).

Literature Review

In Why Nations Fail1, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson explain that economic prosperity depends above all on the inclusiveness of economic and political institutions.  This is in contrast to classical economics which explain the difference in economic well-being using factors like land, labor and capita.  I have previously read this book and hope that my research can confirm or deny their thesis.

I searched using Google Scholar for other literature on this topic.  John Gerring’s “Democracy and economic growth: A historical perspective”2 explained that recent studies appear to show that democracy has no robust association with economic growth (economic growth is viewed as the engine to increase economic well-being).  They argue that democracy must be understood as a stock, rather than a level, measure.

Next Steps

I plan on doing the analysis in Python and will be posting my work to GitHub.


1. Robinson, A. D., and R. Acemoglu. “Why nations fail.” The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty, Nueva Y ork (2012).

2. Gerring, John, et al. “Democracy and economic growth: A historical perspective.” World Politics 57.03 (2005): 323-364.


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