# Empirical View

# Rise of Democracies – Number of Democracies

The majority of the world’s countries is now governed by democratic regimes. The first graph shows that this is a development that happened over the last 200 years and that the rise of democracies has been only interrupted by the illiberal episode during the two World Wars and the number of democracies has been growing hugely after the breakdown of the Soviet Union in 1989.

# Number of Democracies between 1800-2010 – Max Roser1

By clicking on ‘Autocracies’ or ‘Anocracies’ you can also visualise the number of countries with the respective political regime. The second graph compares the two measures that are available for a very long time – since the early 19th century – and shows that they largely move together. It not the number of countries as in the graph before but the share of democratic countries among all independent countries. The world has massively changed: from a world of non-democratic countries around 1800 to a world in which – depending on the measure – more than half of the countries are democracies two centuries later.

# World Maps of Political Regimes, 1800 to Today – Max Roser2

# Share of democracies of independent countries, 1816–2002 – Wilhelmsen3 Share-of-democracies-in-the-world-1816–2002-Wilhelmsen.png

# Rise of Democracies – Share of World Population living in Democracies

The population between countries varies hugely and it is therefore more interesting to look at the number of people instead of the number of countries that are governed by democratic regimes. The following graph shows that by 1997 more than 60% of the world’s population lived in democratic regimes – if you know of a more up to date graph please contact me.

# The number of world citizens living under different political systems – Max Roser4 Clicking on ‘Expanded’ shows you the share of people living under the different political systems.

Full screen view      Download image of chart in shares       Download image of chart in absolute numbers


# World Maps of the distribution of Political Freedom

From a world of autocratic regimes – that are shown in red in the following world map – the world has changed into a world where huge parts of the world are ruled democratic. Most countries in Europe and the Americas have democratised. Some parts of Africa – especially in the West and the South – have democratised and so have countries in Asia – India is the world’s largest democracy. Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Mongolia are all full democracies according to the Polity evaluation. That a democratic world is still a very recent achievement is shown in the following world map that shows the number of years that a country has been democratic. Note that the map is unfortunately a bit older and ends in 1995. It also indicates that economic success goes together with political liberation. The countries that have democratised first are mostly those countries that first achieved economic growth. The present rates of economic growth therefore give hope for further democratisation around the world

# World Map of the Age of Democratic Regimes – years before 2007 since the (last) transition to a democratic regime – Max Roser5

# Political Regimes in the Arab World

The ‘Arab Spring’ might change the political systems in the Arab world. The following graph shows that in the countries of the Arab League another transition has been going on since the mid-80s. The number of autocracies has constantly been falling.

# Governance for the Arab League Countries, 1946-2011 – Center for Systemic Peace6 Governance-for-the-Arab-League-Countries-1946-2011-Polity.png

# Correlates, Determinants, & Consequences

# Correlation between Education and Democracy: Average Years of Schooling in the 15+ Population in 1970 and Political Regime 2013 – Max Roser7

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# Measurement, Data Quality & Definitions

A much cited, thorough evaluation of commonly used democracy measures has been presented by Munck and Verkuilen (2002).8 Unfortunately the authors find a trade-off between the comprehensiveness of the empirical scope and the quality of the assessment in terms of conceptualization, measurement, and aggregation. According to the authors the Polity IV measures are a ‘partial exception’ of this tradeoff and therefore I rely on these measures mostly in this overview. An effort of understanding political changes in democratic countries is the Manifesto-Project. This project undertakes a qualitative analysis of party manifestos for 50 countries since 1945 (from Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung.)

# Data Sources

An overview of measures is presented at and at devEconData.

# Long Run

# Polity Index
  • Data: Many different measures – listed here. Most commonly used is the Polity2 measure which measures political systems on a spectrum between autocracy and democracy. 9
  • Geographical coverage: Global – by country.
  • Time span:  Data goes back to 1800 and is yearly updated.
  • Available at: The Website is here. Older versions of the POLITY dataset are available at Kristian Gleditsch’s Polity Data Archive.
  • This data set is compiled at Colorado State University. More comments on the Polity measures can be found at DevEconData.

# Vanhanen’s Index of Democracy
  • Data: Competition, Participation, and Index of Democracy
  • Geographical coverage: Global – 187 countries
  • Time span: Since 1810
  • Available at: Online here.
  • Criticized by Munck and Verkuilen (2002).10

Boix-Miller-Rosato dichotomous coding of democracy, 1800-2007
  • Data: Dichotomous democracy measure, Dichotomous indicator of sovereignty/independence, Previous number of democratic breakdowns, Consecutive years of current regime type
  • Geographical coverage: Global.
  • Time span: 1800-2007
  • Available at: The data is available at Michael K. Miller’s website.
    • The accompanying paper is published here.11
  • Relatively new.

# Recent Decades

# Freedom House
  • Data: Measures of political and civil liberties.
  • Geographical coverage: Global.
  • Time span: Since 1973
  • Available at: Online here.
  •  Criticized by Munck and Verkuilen (see last side note).

# Democracy-Dictatorship Data
  • Data: Classificationof political regimes as democracy and dictatorship (and classification of democracies as parliamentary, semi-presidential (mixed) and presidential).
  • Geographical coverage: Global – 202 countries.
  • Time span: From 1946 or year of independence to 2008.
  • Available at: Online at José Antonio Cheibub’s website.
  • The accompanying paper is Cheibub, Gandhi, and Vreeland (2010).12

# Papaioannou and Siourounis “Democratization and Growth”
  • Data: Year when permanent democratization happened
  • Geographical coverage: Global – by country
  • Time span: 1960-2003
  • Available at: Data and paper available for download at Papaioannou’s website.

# Varieties of Democracy
  • Data: Varieties of Democracy data
  • Geographical coverage: Global – 206 countries.
  • Time span: 1900 to present
  • Available at: Online at