The literature on the determinants of democratization was long dominated by a view that claimed a central role for economic development (“modernization”). Acemoglu et al. (2008, 2009) have recently challenged the robustness of empirical support for the modernization hypothesis.  As an alternative they claim that democratization is likely to occur in moments of economic crisis.  An article in a leading economics journal by Bruckner and Ciccone (2011) appears to offer strong support for this latter view; it claims that lagged adverse GDP shocks generated by poor rainfall generate “windows of opportunity” for democratization in contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa.  In this paper, we present evidence that this provocative finding does not survive several sensible robustness checks, leading us to doubt if the paper offers new insights into the process of democratization.

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