The Fates Of Third-Wave Democracies

Issue Date January 2019
Volume 30
Issue 1
Page Numbers 99-113
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This article offers the first comprehensive analysis of the outcomes of third-wave democratic transitions. It charts where democracy broke down, stagnated, advanced, and eroded, and it investigates the initial starting conditions associated with democratic deepening and breakdown. The findings are sobering: Among the 91 new democracies that (by our count) emerged from 1974 to 2012, 34 experienced breakdowns, often in short order. In 28 cases, democracy stagnated after transition, usually at a fairly low level, and in two more it eroded. Democracy advanced relative to the starting point in only 23 cases. Few countries have succeeded in creating robust liberal democracies. Regimes that started off with a higher level of liberal democracy, that were geographically surrounded by democracies, and that experienced better rates of economic growth were less likely to break down. Regimes that started off with a lower per capita GDP and those that experienced lower economic growth, as well as regimes that started off with a higher level of liberal democracy, were less likely to deepen democracy.

About the Authors

Scott Mainwaring

Scott Mainwaring is Eugene and Helen Conley Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame.

View all work by Scott Mainwaring

Fernando Bizzarro

Fernando Bizzarro is a doctoral candidate in government at Harvard University and a graduate-student associate at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.

View all work by Fernando Bizzarro