Is Demography Responsible for the Third Wave of Democratization? Partitioning Age Structure's Effects between the Transition to, and the Instability of, Liberal Regimes

Richard P. Cincotta, Henry L. Stimson Center

Despite the demonstrated strength and methodological robustness of the relationship between measures of population age structure and indicators of democracy, plus some success in forecasting, no consensus has yet emerged concerning the contributions of its two components: democratic transition and democratic instability. Whereas this research uses both discrete and continuous models, this paper focuses on the results of a discrete approach, aggregating states into three age-structural categories. The results, comparing the mean annual proportions of states experiencing episodes of democratic transition and democratic instability, from 1973 to 2011, suggest that instability-stability dynamics produce moderately stronger effects than democratic transition. However, both matter: the statistical likelihood of democratic transition increases with increasing median age, as the likelihood of democratic instability decreases. When applied to historical data (early-1970s to present), changes in population age structure adequately explain the accumulation of liberal democracies identified as Samuel Huntington’s empirical Third Wave of Democratization.

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Presented in Session 26: Demography, Development and Democracy