In this article, I synthesize a number of recent studies exploring how exports affect human rights, highlighting a common implication that this relationship is conditional on how exports are associated with leaders’ relative costs of repression and accommodation. Beginning with this synthesis, I develop a theory demonstrating how the composition of exports affects human rights via its impact on leader expectations. More diverse exports promote continued growth and prosperity, provide leaders with greater resources, and suggest conditions less conducive to severe dissent, all of which reduce the relative costs of accommodation. Repression is likely to threaten the benefits otherwise associated with greater export diversity; thus its relative cost increases amid greater export diversity. I test this theory using commodity-level data from the United Nations Comtrade database to create a country-year-level measure of export diversity. Statistical analyses spanning 1981 to 2009 support my expectation. My results are robust to sample restrictions and the use of instrumental variables.
- human rights
- political economy
- political survival
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Business, Management and Accounting
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations