"Do Natural Resources Fuel Authoritarianism" is the most cited article in the American Political Science Review (APSR) over the last five years.
A large body of scholarship finds that there is a relationship between reliance on natural resources and authoritarianism. Extant cross-country findings are derived, however, from panel regressions that assume random effects, where the dataset’s time dimension is relatively short. Because natural resource reliance is not an exogenous variable that is randomly assigned, this is not an effective strategy to uncover causal relationships. Indeed, numerous sources of bias may be driving the results, the most serious of which is omitted variable bias induced by the time-invariant differences between countries. We therefore develop unique historical datasets, employ time-series centric techniques, and operationalize explicitly specified counterfactuals. This allows us properly test for long-run relationships between resource reliance and regime type within countries over time, therefore allowing us to minimize the sources of bias that beset the extant literature. Our results indicate that increases in resource reliance are not associated with the undermining of democracy, or less complete transitions from authoritarianism to democracy. If anything, in many specifications we generate results that suggest a resource blessing.