NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Leader Value Added: Assessing the Growth Contribution of Individual National Leaders

William Easterly, Steven Pennings

NBER Working Paper No. 27153
Issued in May 2020
NBER Program(s):Development Economics, Political Economy

Previous literature suggests that leaders matter for growth in general. This paper asks which leaders matter and develops a methodology to estimate the growth contribution of individual leaders and calculate its precision. The findings show that few leaders have statistically significant contributions; it is difficult to know who is good for growth and who is not. The paper also finds that the most intuitive estimate of a leader’s contribution—the average growth rate during tenure—is largely useless for measuring his or her true contribution. Consequently, many leaders with statistically significant growth effects are surprises. Moreover, leaders in non-democratic countries are no more likely to be statistically significant than leaders in democratic ones.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w27153

 
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