The Ambiguous Effects of Democracy on Bureaucratic Quality

Research output: Working paper


Recent studies find that higher degrees of democracy are related to higher levels of bureaucratic quality. However, they only offer limited explanations for this pattern based on a unidimensional understanding of democracy. We argue that future uncertainties as perceived by the incumbent, the opposition, and voters are important for why bureaucratic reform takes place. Therefore, we expect no uniform effects of democracy but that the effect depends on the socioeconomic status of the median voter. Empirically, we examine the separate effects of three dimensions of democracy – competitive elections, legislative constraints on the executive, and suffrage. Based on a global sample of countries from 1790 to 2016 that adds historical depth and variation on bureaucratic quality and the dimensions of democracy, the results show that competitive elections and legislative constraints are connected with higher levels of bureaucratic quality. However, the third dimension of suffrage is not related to bureaucratic quality. Rather, the positive effects of competitive elections and legislative constraints seem to decrease in times of large suffrage extensions.


  • Agnes Cornell
  • David Andersen
External organisations
  • Aarhus University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science


Original languageEnglish
PublisherLund University
Number of pages47
Publication statusPublished - 2018 May
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameSTANCE Working Papers Series

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The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation: Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Science Research


Project: ResearchInternal collaboration (LU)

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