Do leaders matter? National leadership and growth since world war II

Benjamin F. Jones, Benjamin A. Olken

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

527 Scopus citations


Economic growth within countries varies sharply across decades. This paper examines one explanation for these sustained shifts in growth-changes in the national leader. We use deaths of leaders while in office as a source of exogenous variation in leadership, and ask whether these plausibly exogenous leadership transitions are associated with shifts in country growth rates. We find robust evidence that leaders matter for growth. The results suggest that the effects of individual leaders are strongest in autocratic settings where there are fewer constraints on a leader's power. Leaders also appear to affect policy outcomes, particularly monetary policy. The results suggest that individual leaders can play crucial roles in shaping the growth of nations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)835-864
Number of pages30
JournalQuarterly Journal of Economics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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