Naidu, Suresh, James A Robinson, and Lauren E Young. Working Paper. “Social Origins of Dictatorships: Elite Networks and Political Transitions in Haiti”.
Existing theories of coups against democracy emphasize that elites mount coups when democracy is particularly threatening to their interests. But holding interests constant, some potential plotters may have more influence over whether or not a coup succeeds. We develop a model where coups generate rents for elites and show that the likelihood of elite participation is increasing in their network centrality. We empirically explore the model using an original dataset of Haitian elite networks which we linked to firm-level data. We show that central families were more likely to participate in the 1991 coup against the democratic Aristide government. We then find that the retail prices of staple goods imported by coup participators differentially increase during subsequent periods of non-democracy. Finally, we find that urban children born during democratic reversions are more likely to experience adverse health outcomes. Our results suggest that elite social structure affects development via political institutions.