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DONDENA Seminar Series Spring 2023 - Alicia Adsera


"The Value of Democracy"

(joint with Andreu Arenas and Carles Boix)




How much do citizens value democracy? How willing are they to sacrifice their liberties and voting rights for growth, equality or other social outcomes? We design a conjoint experiment embedded in nationally representative surveys in Brazil, France and the United States in which respondents choose between different societies that randomly vary in their economic outcomes (country income, income inequality, social mobility), political outcomes (democracy, public health insurance), and the level of personal income for the respondent. Our research allows us to estimate the respondents’ willingness to trade off democracy for individual income (as well as other societal attributes). We find that, on average, individuals are strongly attached to democracy and a robust welfare state. They prefer to live in a country without free democratic elections only if their individual income multiplies by at least three times and in a country without public health insurance only if their individual income more than doubles. After calculating these preferences at the individual level for all respondents, we show that, although there is a significant authoritarian minority in all three countries, forming a non-democratic majority (by offering more income and/or other goods to respondents) is very unlikely. Our findings imply that, contrary to a growing discussion about the crisis of democracy, liberal democratic values remain substantially robust in high and middle income democracies.





Alícia Adserà is a Senior Research Scholar (with tenure) and Lecturer in Economics at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and director of graduate studies at the Office of Population Research (Princeton University). Her research interests are in economic demography, development and international political economy. Her work focuses on the interplay between labor markets and fertility as well as on a diverse array of migration topics. Her work has appeared at Journal of Population Economics, Population Studies, Economic Journal, Economic Policy, Journal of Law Economics and Organization, American Economic Review P&P, and International Organization among others. Previously, she was an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Research Affiliate at the Population Research Center of the University of Chicago. She holds a PhD in Economics from Boston University.


You may follow the seminar online via ZOOM Meetings at the following link: