Skip to main content Accessibility help

Heeding the Sirens: The Politics of IMF Program Participation

  • Irfan Nooruddin and Byungwon Woo


Given similar economic distress indicators, why do some states enter into International Monetary Fund (IMF) programs while others do not? Building on extant studies of IMF program participation that highlight the importance of various economic and political determinants, this article proposes an argument focusing on the political incentives of the IMF and a borrowing country when they engage in IMF program negotiations. Specifically, the study develops a domestic politics argument to highlight the interactions among sovereignty costs, competence costs, economic conditions and domestic regime types, and tests the argument using a cross-national time-series dataset of all IMF agreements between 1970 and 2006. It finds that when the economic crisis is mild, democracies are less likely than non-democracies to enter IMF programs, but that when the economic crisis is severe, democracies are more likely to do so than their autocratic counterparts. The article attributes this tendency to democratic leaders’ electoral vulnerability and shows that these patterns become more pronounced as elections draw near.



Hide All
Irfan Nooruddin is Associate Professor in the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, P.O. Box 571040, Washington, DC 20057 ( Byungwon Woo is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Oakland University, 421A Varner Hall, 2200 N. Squirrel Rd, Rochester, MI 48309 ( We thank Todd Allee, Daniel Corstange, Axel Dreher, Rob Franzese, Susan Hyde, Chris Kilby, Peter Rosendorff, Heidi Sherman, James Vreeland, and participants in the 2009 PEIO conference in Geneva for their comments and feedback. The data and code used in this article are publicly available at To view supplementary material for this article, please visit



Hide All
Ai, Chunrung, and Norton, Edward C.. 2003. ‘Interaction Terms in Logit and Probit Models’. Economic Letters 80:123129.
Amemiya, Takashi. 1985. Advanced Econometrics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Barro, Robert J., and Lee, Jong-Wha. 2005. ‘IMF Programs: Who is Chosen and What are the Effects?Journal of Monetary Economics 52:12451269.
Bennett, D. Scott, and Stam, Allan. 2000. ‘EUGene: A Conceptual Manual’. International Interactions 26:179204.
Bird, Graham. 1996. ‘The International Monetary Fund and Developing Countries: A Review of the Evidence and Policy Options’. International Organization 50(3):477511.
Bird, Graham. 2003. The IMF and the Future: Issues and Options Facing the Fund. New York: Routledge.
Bird, Graham, Hussain, Mumtaz, and Joyce, Joseph. 2004. ‘Many Happy Returns? Recidivism and the IMF’. Journal of International Money and Finance 23(2):231251.
Broz, J. Lawrence, and Hawes, Michael Brewster. 2006. ‘Congressional Politics of Financing the International Monetary Fund’. International Organization 60:367399.
Bueno De Mesquita, Bruce, Smith, Alastair, Siverson, Randolph M., and Morrow, James D. 2003. The Logic of Political Survival. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Caraway, Teri L., Rickard, Stephanie J., and Anner, Mark S.. 2012. ‘International Negotiations and Domestic Politics: The Case of IMF Labor Market Conditionality’. International Organization 66(1):2761.
Conway, Patrick. 2007. ‘The Revolving Door: Duration and Recidivism in Participation in IMF Programs’. Review of Economics and Statistics 89:205220.
Dreher, Axel. 2006. ‘IMF and Economic Growth: The Effects of Programs, Loans, and Compliances with Conditionality’. World Development 34:769788.
Dreher, Axel, and Jensen, Nathan. 2007. ‘Independent Actor or Agent? An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of US Interests on IMF Conditions’. The Journal of Law and Economics 50:105124.
Dreher, Axel, Sturm, Jan-Egbert, and Vreeland, James Raymond. 2009. ‘Global Horse Trading: IMF Loans for Votes in the United Nations Security Council’. European Economic Review 53:742757.
Edwards, Martin S. 2006. ‘Signalling Credibility? The IMF and Catalytic Finance’. Journal of International Relations and Development 9:2752.
Jaggers, Keith, and Gurr, Ted Robert. 1995. ‘Tracking Democracy’s Third Wave with the Polity III Data’. Journal of Peace Research 32(4):469482.
Jensen, Nathan. 2004. ‘Crisis, Conditions, and Capital: The Effect of International Monetary Fund Agreements on Foreign Direct Investment Inflows’. Journal of Conflict Resolution 48(2):194210.
Knight, Malcolm, and Santaella, Julio A.. 1997. ‘Economic Determinants of IMF Financial Arrangements’. Journal of Development Economics 54:405436.
Lewis-Beck, Michael S., and Paldam, Martin. 2000. ‘Economic Voting: an Introduction’. Electoral Studies 19:113121.
Marshall, Monty G., Jaggers, Keith, and Gurr, Ted Robert. 2010. ‘POLITY IV PROJECT Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800-2010 Dataset Users’ Manual’.
Momani, Bessma. 2004a. ‘American Politicization of the International Monetary Fund’. Review of International Political Economy 11:880904.
Momani, Bessma. 2004b. ‘The IMF, US War on Terrorism, and Pakistan: A Lesson in Economic Statecraft’. Asian Affairs 31:4150.
Moser, Christoph, and Sturm, Jan-Egbert. 2011. ‘Explaining IMF Lending Decisions after the Cold War’. Review of International Organizations 6:307340.
Nooruddin, Irfan, and Simmons, Joel W.. 2006. ‘The Politics of Hard Choices: IMF Programs and Government Spending’. International Organization 60:10011033.
Pop-Eleches, Grigore. 2008. From Economic Crisis to Economic Reform: IMF Programs in Latin America and Eastern Europe. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Signorino, Curtis S., and Ritter, Jeffrey M.. 1999. ‘Tau-b or Not Tau-b: Measuring the Similarity of Foreign Policy Positions’. International Studies Quarterly 43:115144.
Steinwand, Martin C., and Stone, Randall W.. 2008. ‘The International Monetary Fund: A Review of the Recent Evidence’. Review of International Organizations 3:123149.
Stone, Randall W. 2002. Lending Credibility: The International Monetary Fund and the Post-Communist Transition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Stone, Randall W.. 2008. ‘The Scope of IMF Conditionality’. International Organization 62:589620.
Sturm, Jan-Egbert, Berger, Helge, and de Haan, Jakob. 2005. ‘Which Variables Explain Decisions on IMF Credit? An Extreme Bounds Analysis’. Economics & Politics 17(2):177213.
Thacker, Strom Cronan. 1999. ‘The High Politics of IMF Lending’. World Politics 52:3875.
Vaubel, Roland. 1996. ‘Bureaucracy at the IMF and the World Bank: A Comparison of the Evidence’. World Economy 19:195210.
Vreeland, James Raymond. 2002. ‘Institutional Determinants of IMF Agreements’.
Vreeland, James Raymond. 2003. The IMF and Economic Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Vreeland, James Raymond. 2007. The International Monetary Fund: Politics of Conditional Lending. New York: Routledge.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Nooruddin and Woo Supplementary Material
Supplementary Material

 PDF (214 KB)
214 KB
Supplementary materials

Nooruddin and Woo Supplementary Material
Supplementary Material

 PDF (30 KB)
30 KB

Heeding the Sirens: The Politics of IMF Program Participation

  • Irfan Nooruddin and Byungwon Woo


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.