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The Transforming Power of Democracy: Regime Type and the Distribution of Electricity


Theory on democracy and its consequences turns on how democracy influences behavior among politicians and the citizenry. Ultimately, the literature seeks to determine who benefits under democratic rules. This is our concern, posed in a context that allows us to address a classic question: does democracy favor large but diffuse segments of society over small but concentrated interests? We employ sectoral electricity consumption data for a panel of 733 country-years to examine democracy's impact on the distribution of electricity across three sectors that represent distinct political interests: industry, agriculture, and residential consumers. We find that in poorer countries democratization produces significant increases in the residential share of electricity relative to industry, suggesting sectors with less per capita financial clout, but a stronger voice in elections benefit under democracy. Unlike the large literatures on democracy's impact on the amounts of publicly provided goods, our results are among the first on the distribution of those goods.

Corresponding author
David S. Brown is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Colorado at Boulder, UCB 333, Boulder, CO 80309-0333 (
Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak is Assistant Professor of Economics, Yale School of Management, Yale University, 135 Prospect Street, Box 208200, New Haven, CT 06520-8200 (
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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