The dictator effect: how long years in office affect economic development

K.I. Papaioannou*, J.L. van Zanden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This paper contributes to the growing literature on the links between political regimes and economic development by studying the effects of years in office on economic development. The hypothesis is that dictators who stay in office for a long time period will find it increasingly difficult to carry out sound economic policies. We argue that such economic policies are the result of information asymmetries inherent to dictatorships (known as the ‘dictator dilemma’) and of changes in the personality of dictators (known as the ‘winner effect’). We call the combination of these two terms the ‘dictator effect’. We present evidence to suggest that long years in office impacts on economic growth (which is reduced), inflation (which increases) and the quality of institutions (which deteriorates). The negative effect of long years of tenure (i.e. the ‘dictator effect’) is particularly strong in young states and in Africa and the Near East.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-139
JournalJournal of Institutional Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • panel-data
  • measuring democracy
  • government size
  • cross-section
  • cause growth
  • institutions
  • power
  • democratization
  • instruments
  • countries


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