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A long literature investigates the relationship between regime type and economic performance, but little recent scholarship distinguishes among types of autocratic regimes. Using a dynamic panel design, we provide evidence that GDP per capita is lower in “personalist” autocracies than it is in regimes where power is less concentrated in a single leader. Our preferred measurement and specification imply that the autocratic growth disadvantage is driven entirely by the difference between democratic and personalist regimes, with essentially no income difference between democracies and “institutionalized” autocracies, after accounting for income dynamics and country fixed effects. Our examination of mechanisms suggests that the personalist handicap results from comparatively low private investment and comparatively high social conflict in such regimes. Read in terms of work on the political economy of nondemocracy, our results point to a particular a) inability to commit and b) failure to co-opt in personalist autocracies.
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