Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-7f7b94f6bd-8mfwn Total loading time: 0.257 Render date: 2022-07-01T04:28:19.070Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Oil and Autocratic Regime Survival

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 September 2013


This article uncovers a new mechanism linking oil wealth to autocratic regime survival: the investigation tests whether increases in oil wealth improve the survival of autocracies by lowering the chances of democratization, reducing the risk of transition to subsequent dictatorship, or both. Using a new measure of autocratic durability shows that, once models allow for unit effects, oil wealth promotes autocratic survival by lowering the risk of ouster by rival autocratic groups. Evidence also indicates that oil income increases military spending in dictatorships, which suggests that increasing oil wealth may deter coups that could have caused a regime collapse.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Pennsylvania State University; Bridgewater State University; UCLA (emails:;; and The authors are grateful to Jørgen Andersen, Ben Bagozzi, Xun Cao, Matt Golder, James Honaker, Michael Ross, John Zaller, and Chris Zorn for helpful conversations, and thank one of the Editors and three anonymous reviewers for excellent feedback. Finally, they wish to thank Victor Menaldo for sharing data and replication code. This research has been supported by NSF-BCS #0904463 and NSF-BCS #0904478. Upon publication replication materials will be posted at Dataverse and on Joseph Wright's website. An On-line appendix A-E supplementary material is available at:


Andersen, Jørgen Juel Ross, Michael L.. 2014. The Big Oil Change: A Closer Look at the Haber–Menaldo Data. Comparative Political Studies forthcoming.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Andersen, Jørgen Juel Aslaksen, Silje. 2013. Oil and Political Survival. Journal of Development Economics 100:89106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Anderson, Lisa. 1991. The State in the Middle East and North Africa. Comparative Politics 20 (1):118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Auty, Richard M. 2001. Resource Abundance and Economic Development. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Basedau, Matthias Lay, Jann. 2009. Resource Curse or Rentier Peace? The Ambiguous Effects of Oil Wealth and Oil Dependence on Violent Conflict. Journal of Peace Research 46 (6):757776.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Beblawi, Hazem Luciani, Giacomo. 1987. The Rentier State. New York: Croom Helm.Google Scholar
Boix, Carles. 2003. Democracy and Redistribution. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce Smith, Alastair. 2010. Leader Survival, Revolutions, and the Nature of Government Finance. American Journal of Political Science 54 (4):936950.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Burrowes, Robert D. 1987. The Yemen Arab Republic: The Politics of Development, 1962–1986. Boulder, Colo.: Westview.Google Scholar
Chamberlain, Gary. 1982. Multivariate Regression Models for Panel Data. Journal of Econometrics 18 (1):546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cheibub, José Antonio, Gandhi, Jennifer Vreeland, James Raymond. 2010. Democracy and Dictatorship Revisited. Public Choice 143 (1–2):67101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crystal, Jill. 1995. Oil and Politics in the Gulf: Rulers and Merchants in Kuwait and Qatar. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [First published in 1990.].Google Scholar
Cuaresma, Jesus Crespo, Oberhofer, Harald Raschky, Paul. 2011. Oil and the Duration of Dictatorships. Public Choice 148 (3–4):505530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dunning, Thad. 2008. Crude Democracy: Natural Resource Wealth and Political Regimes. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dunning, Thad. 2010. Endogenous Oil Rents. Comparative Political Studies 43 (3):379410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Geddes, Barbara. 2003. Paradigms and Sand Castles. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Geddes, Barbara, Wright, Joseph Frantz, Erica. 2014. Autocratic Breakdown and Regime Transitions: A New Data Set. Perspectives on Politics 12 (1): forthcoming.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gleditsch, Kristian, Choung, Jinhee. 2004. Autocratic Transitions and Democratization. Paper presented at the Annual International Studies Association Convention, Montreal.Google Scholar
Gleditsch, Kristian Ward, Michael D.. 1997. Double Take: A Re-Examination of Democracy and Autocracy in Modern Polities. Journal of Conflict Resolution 41 (3):361383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gleditsch, Nils Tetter, Wallensteen, P., Eriksson, M., Sollenberg, M. Strand, H.. 2002. Armed Conflict 1946–2001: A New Dataset. Journal of Peace Research 39 (5):615637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Haber, Stephen Menaldo, Victor. 2011. Do Natural Resources Fuel Authoritarianism? A Reappraisal of the Resource Curse. American Political Science Review 105 (1):126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Herb, Michael. 2005. No Taxation without Representation? Rents, Development, and Democracy. Comparative Politics 37 (3):297317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jensen, Nathan Wantchekon, Leonard. 2004. Resource Wealth and Political Regimes in Africa. Comparative Political Studies 37 (7):816841.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Karl, Terry Lynn. 1997. The Paradox of Plenty. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Katz, Ethan. 2001. Bias in Conditional and Unconditional Fixed Effects Logit Estimation. Political Analysis 9 (4):379384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Luciani, Giacomo. 1990. Allocation vs. Production States: A Theoretical Framework. In The Arab State, edited by Giacomo Luciani, pp. 6584. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Maddison, Angus. 2010. World Population, GDP and Per Capita GDP, 1–2008 AD. Available from Scholar
Mahdavy, Hussein. 1970. The Patterns and Problems of Economic Development in Rentier States: The Case of Iran. In Studies in the Economic History of the Middle East, edited by M. A. Cook, pp. 428467. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
McFaul, Michael. 2002. The Fourth Wave of Democracy and Dictatorship: Noncooperative Transitions in the Postcommunist World. World Politics 54 (2):212244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miller, Michael K. 2012. Fixed Effects and Instability Bias. Mimeo: Australian National University.Google Scholar
Morrison, Kevin. 2009. Oil, Non-Tax Revenue, and the Redistributional Foundations of Regime Stability. International Organization 63 (1):107138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mundlak, Yair. 1978. On the Pooling of Time Series and Cross Section Data. Econometrica 46 (1):6985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pemstein, Daniel, Meserve, Stephen Mellon, James. 2010. Democratic Compromise: A Latent Variable Analysis of Ten Measures of Regime Type. Political Analysis 4 (18):426449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Polity, IV. 2010. Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800–2010. Available from Google Scholar
Ramsay, Kris. 2011. Revisiting the Resource Curse: Natural Disasters, the Price of Oil, and Democracy. International Organization 65 (3):507529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ross, Michael L. 2001. Does Oil Hinder Democracy? World Politics 53 (3):321365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ross, Michael L. 2006. A Closer Look at Oil, Diamonds, and Civil War. Annual Review of Political Science 9:265300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ross, Michael L. 2008. Oil, Islam, and Women. American Political Science Review 102 (1):107123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ross, Michael L. 2009. Oil and Democracy Revisited. Mimeo: UCLA.Google Scholar
Ross, Michael L. 2012. The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Sachs, Jeffrey D. Warner, Andrew M.. 1995. Natural Resource Abundance and Economic Growth. Cambridge, Mass.: National Bureau of Economic Research. Working Paper 5398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, Benjamin. 2004. Oil Wealth and Regime Survival in the Developing World: 1960–1999. American Journal of Political Science 48 (2):232246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Svolik, Milan. 2009. Power Sharing and Leadership Dynamics in Authoritarian Regimes. American Journal of Political Science 53 (2):477494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Treier, Shawn Jackman, Simon. 2008. Democracy as a Latent Variable. American Journal of Political Science 1 (52):201217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tsui, Kevin. 2011. More Oil, Less Democracy: Evidence from Worldwide Crude Oil Discoveries. Economic Journal 121 (551):89115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ulfelder, Jay. 2007. Natural-Resource Wealth and the Survival of Autocracy. Comparative Political Studies 40 (8):9951018.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vandewalle, Dirk. 1998. Libya since Independence: Oil and State-Building. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
Wintrobe, Ronald. 1998. The Political Economy of Dictatorship. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zorn, Christopher. 2001. Estimating Between- and Within-Cluster Covariate Effects, with an Application to Models of International Disputes. International Interactions 27 (4):433445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Wright Supplementary Material

Supplementary Material

Download Wright Supplementary Material(File)
File 15 KB
Supplementary material: PDF

Wright Supplementary Material

Online Appendix

Download Wright Supplementary Material(PDF)
PDF 715 KB
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Oil and Autocratic Regime Survival
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Oil and Autocratic Regime Survival
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Oil and Autocratic Regime Survival
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *