Scholars and policy-makers have long known that the process of democratization is shaped by both short-term political events and by long-term structural factors. In this article, we look at patterns in three key structural factors that play a major role in democratization – income, ethnic fragmentation and state quality. We find that both democratic and autocratic regimes have on average become stronger in terms of these key variables in the last twenty years. By contrast, hybrid regimes, which are often thought by scholars to be the most “available” for democratization now face greater structural challenges than before. We also demonstrate using simple empirics that structurally advantaged autocracies and democracies are more stable than their structurally disadvantaged counterparts and that hybrid regimes with multiple structural disadvantages are more likely to slip in terms of democratization than hybrids in better circumstances. These patterns, we argue, are bad news for those who have been looking for a new wave of democratization, but they also suggest that a full-blown authoritarian reverse wave is equally unlikely.
Structural Conditions and Democratization
Issue Date July 2015
Page Numbers 144-156