Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Charles Hankla

Second Advisor

Michael Fix

Third Advisor

Carrie Manning

Fourth Advisor

Jennifer McCoy


What are the conditions under which democratization is more likely to happen? After decades of research focused on the relationship between economic development and democratization, the more recent theories have identified economic inequality as the more specific variable of importance, but they disagree over what exactly its effects are. Here I present a new theory of power, inequality and democratization which conceptualizes democratization as a composite process made up of two distinct transformations: liberalization, which establishes greater government accountability along the horizontal dimension, in the form of powerful legislatives and courts; and electoralization, which makes the government more vertically accountable through universally free and fair elections. I hypothesize that changes along the two dimensions are determined by economic inequality within the wealthy elite, and between the wealthy and the rest of the population. Empirical support for these relationships is found in dynamic probit analyses of worldwide inequality and regime type data from 1821 to 1992 and in in-depth examinations of the democratization process in England and in South Korea. The evidence suggests that economic inequality is an important predictor of democratization, but the relationship is complex: low inequality within the wealthy elite increases the likelihood of liberalization, while low inequality between the rich and rest makes electoralization more probable.


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