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Partisan Competition, Growth and the Franchise
The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2005)
  • Humberto Llavador, Universitat Pompeu Fabra
  • Robert J. Oxoby, University of Calgary
The nineteenth century was a time of rapid economic growth and development. Over this period, the seeds sown by the industrial revolution were realized by expansions in technology and markets. Many countries saw also large-scale changes in the distribution of political voice, changes leading not only to increases in the electorate, but also to massive decreases. The concurrence of changes in the “engines of economic growth” and political voice is not coincidence. In this paper, we present an argument for changes in the franchise in which an elite split along economic interests use the suffrage to influence implemented policies. Through the influence of these policies on the character of industrialization, we analyze the effects of franchise changes on economic growth. We identify in the social structure of society an explanation for the connection between enfranchisement and growth: When (1) there exist an economic conflict among the elite, (2) landed classes are not politically strong, and (3) there exists a critical mass of industrial workers, we observe both growth and democratization. The lack of conditions (1) or (2) resolves in stagnant autocracies while the absence of condition (3) drives growth-deterring democratic expansions. We provide historical support for our argument by analyzing the experience of 11 countries.
  • Franchise,
  • growth,
  • political competition,
  • elites,
  • industrialization.
Publication Date
Citation Information
Humberto Llavador and Robert J. Oxoby. "Partisan Competition, Growth and the Franchise" The Quarterly Journal of Economics Vol. 120 Iss. 3 (2005)
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