Comparative Politics

Minorities in dictatorship and democracy.

Arseniy Samsonov University of California, Los Angeles


How does the level of democracy in a country affect the government’s treatment of ethnic minorities? I find that, on average, when the largest ethnic group in a society exceeds half of the population, ethnic minorities are treated better in autocracies and full democracies than in semi-democratic countries. The intuition is that under autocracy a leader needs little popular support, and therefore a coalition of several minorities can rule. By contrast, in a semi-democracy, the leader needs the support of more people, so a coalition of small ethnic groups is insufficient; the largest group is enough and no other groups are necessary. Finally, highly democratic countries require broad support, and most ethnic groups get benefits. My model is based on the Baron-Ferejohn bargaining game and my empirical tests use the Ethnic Power Relations dataset.


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