colloquiums  |  Politics and Public Administration

Economic Disparities, Emigration, and Authoritarian Repression

Thursday, 06. Juli 2017
13.30 – 15.00

D 351

Center for Data and Methods

Moritz Marbach (Univ Zürich)

This study is part of the event series „CDM Colloquium“.


Economic opportunities within a country are an important determinant of repression. In this paper, we demonstrate theoretically and empirically that citizens' economic opportunities abroad also shape the repression choices of authoritarian rulers. We use a game-theoretic model to show that a leader who perceives citizens' emigration from the polity as a threat increases repression when citizens' economic opportunities abroad expand. To test this hypothesis, we utilize original data from Communist East Germany, reassembling the regime's secret prisoner database. Our identification strategy exploits occupation-specifi c differences in changing economic opportunities between East and West Germany. We uncover causal evidence that economic opportunities in West Germany shaped politically motivated arrests in East Germany. Using differential access to West German television, we also shed light on the informational mechanism explaining our main result and discuss other cases whose understanding can be aided by our argument.