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Research Seminar on Diversity and Development

On November 15, 2016 ICSID held another session of its regular research Seminar on Diversity and Development in cooperation with NES Center for the Study of Diversity and Social Interactions and the seminar “Political Economy”.

Andrey Shcherbak, Senior Research Fellow of Laboratory for Comparative Social Research and Associate Professor at St. Petersburg School of Social Sciences and Humanities, presented his paper “The recipe for democracy? Improvement in diet as a structural prerequisite for political change”.

Abstract: The paper aims to reveal the relationship between improvement in human diet and transition to democracy. The spread of a “European diet” – the diet with historically unprecedented high proportion of animal proteins in daily calorie intake – is considered to be a proxy for the middle class expansion; a large middle class is one the crucial prerequisites for a successful transition to democracy. In contrast to other studies, I regard European diet as an outcome of long historical transformation and show that improvement in nutrition preceded regime change. To get data on nutrients consumption around the world I apply to the Food balance sheets data from FAOSTAT. Based on this data I was able to define a European diet as the one containing animal protein-rich items (mostly, meat and dairy), alcohol beverages and sugar. Using OLS, factor analysis and SEM I test the effects of rising nutrition status on the chance of transition to democracy. My findings reveal that improvement in diet might be regarded as a proxy for the middle class measurement and thus for democratization.