According to the economic approach to political transitions, negative transitory economic shocks can open a window of opportunity for democratic change. Testing the theory requires a source of transitory shocks to the aggregate economy. We rely on rainfall shocks in Sub-Saharan African countries. Our analysis yields that negative transitory shocks lead to significant democratic change. A transitory 10 percent drop in income is followed by an improvement in democracy scores of 9 percentage points, and by an increase in the probability of a transition to democracy of 13 percentage points.
According to the economic approach to political transitions, negative transitory economic shocks can give rise to a window of opportunity for democratic change. We examine this hypothesis using yearly rainfall variation over the 1980-2004 period in 41 Sub-Saharan African countries. We find that a 25% drop in rainfall increases the probability of a transition to democracy during the following two years by around 3 percentage points. A 5% fall in income due to low rainfall raises the probability of democratization by 7 percentage points. We also find that rainfall does not affect transitions from democracy to autocracy.
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