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In The Fate of Young Democracies, CGD Visiting Fellow Ethan Kapstein and co-author Nathan Converse attempt to explain why many newly democratized countries experience political reversals. They call these reversals "Major Democratic Transitions"-- a phrase that makes our demographic ears perk up.

Kapstein and Converse examine potential correlates of democratic reversal like initial conditions, economic performance and policy, political institutions and the role of time in a sample of new democracies: countries that saw an absolute increase of at least 6 points over three years or less on the Polity scale, a measure of political regime characteristics and transitions (Marshall and Jaggers 2005).

Kapstein and Converse didn't analyze it, but could younger, high population growth countries be more likely to make democratic reversals? There are reasons to believe demographic factors could be important. In The Shape of Things to Come, Population Action International last year highlighted that 90% of populations with very young age structures were likely to have autocratic or semi-democratic governments, and more likely to be in conflict. It would be interesting to add age structure to Kapstein and Converse's dataset and see whether young and youthful democracies are more vulnerable to reversals than those that are just new.

Demography is important to consider in studying political structure and other development dynamics. The link between demographic factors and broader development discourse has been ignored for too long. An initiative at the Center, Demographics and Development in the 21st Century, seeks to rectify that omission. Please see our website for more information!