Steven Pennings

Development Research Group
World Bank
1818 H St NW,
Washington DC 20433

E-Mail: EmailAddress: hidden: you can email any NBER-related person as first underscore last at nber dot org
Institutional Affiliation: World Bank

NBER Working Papers and Publications

May 2020Leader Value Added: Assessing the Growth Contribution of Individual National Leaders
with William Easterly: w27153
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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