No country for old men: Aging dictators and economic growth

Richard Jong-A-Pin*, Jochen O. Mierau

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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Why do some autocracies have higher economic growth rates than others? An emerging literature is highlighting that in addition to economic and institutional variables, personal characteristics of political leaders affect economic growth rates. Within this tradition, we develop a political-economic growth model of the relationship between the age of a dictator and economic growth. The model predicts that if a dictator's mortality risk increases, the economic growth rate in his country decreases. The model predictions are supported by empirical evidence based on a large sample of more than 400 dictators from 76 countries. A 1-year increase in dictator age, decreases economic growth by 0.12 percentage points. Using random leadership transitions due to natural deaths or terminal illnesses we establish that this effect is not driven by endogenous sample selection. As expected, the effect is absent in democratic political regimes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105714
Number of pages10
JournalEconomic Modelling
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2022


  • Aging
  • Economic growth
  • Government performance
  • Political leaders

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