We analyze the interplay of political elites’ de facto power, democracy and education based on a theoretical framework inspired by the model in Acemoglu and Robinson (2006). We identify conditions under which the elite may overcompensate the loss of de jure power (as a result of political reform) by investing too much in de facto power so that the probability to have de facto power is higher under democracy than under non-democracy. The analysis also shows that depending on whether the income effect of education is strong or weak and whether citizens’ education has increasing or decreasing returns, the elite may or may not support education subsidy under democracy. We show that under certain assumptions the political elites may treat democracy and spending on citizens’ education as substitutes. We comment on the implications of the results for understanding why countries that started from comparable initial conditions may follow divergent development paths.
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