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Faculty of Economics

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Aidt, T., Lacroix, J., Meon, P-G.

The Origins of Elite Persistence: Evidence from Political Purges in post-World War II France


Abstract: This paper studies a new mechanism that allows political elites from a non-democratic regime to survive a democratic transition: connections. We document this mechanism in the transition from the Vichy regime to democracy in post-World War II France. The parliamentarians who had supported the Vichy regime were purged in a two-stage process where each case was judged twice by two different courts. Using a difference-in-differences strategy, we show that Law graduates, a powerful social group in French politics with strong connections to one of the two courts, had a clearance rate that was 10 percentage points higher than others. This facilitated the persistence of that elite group. A systematic analysis of 17,589 documents from the defendants' dossiers is consistent with the hypothesis that the connections of Law graduates to one of the two courts were a major driver of their ability to avoid the purge. We consider and rule out alternative mechanisms.

Keywords: Purges, Political transitions, Elite persistence, Connections

JEL Codes: D73 K40 N44 P48

Author links: Toke Aidt  


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