Income, Democracy, and Punctuated Equilibria

I’m teaching Intro to International Relations this semester and tonight is our first class meeting.  In my introductory lecture I’m using lots of graphs and maps from Gapminder and from the World Freedom Atlas, both excellent and free online resources for presenting social science information in a visually compelling way.

When I was making graphs with Gapminder, I made this one, which represents the correlation between income per person and democracy for the period 1800-2007.  There is a long tradition in the development literature going back to Seymour Lipset in the 1950s saying that increased income tends to increase democracy, and the data here support that view.  It was particularly interesting to watch the democracy scores (from Polity) move rapidly up and down rather than incrementally – watch for yourself to see what I mean.  This of course represents how political reforms tend not to occur piecemeal, but in big, rapid shifts of the sort that we sometimes call “punctuated equilibria.”

Very cool.


About Jake Wobig

I teach international relations and comparative politics at Wingate University in Wingate, North Carolina
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