Erica Frantz

Assistant Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University
Areas of Expertise:
  • International Development
  • Policy in Other Countries
  • Government Agencies

About Erica

Frantz studies authoritarian politics, with a focus on democratization, conflict, and development. She is also interested in the security and policy implications of autocratic rule. Frantz has published four books on dictatorships and development, as well as a number of journal articles and op-ed pieces. Prior to joining academia, she worked as a political analyst for a government contractor in the DC area.




The Politics of Dictatorship: Institutions and Outcomes in Authoritarian Regimes (with Natasha Ezrow) (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2011).

Shows that dictatorships are not regimes driven by the whims of a single individual; leader-elite relations matter and are strongly influenced by the nature of the regime’s political institutions.

"How Autocracies Fall" (with Andrea Kendall-Taylor). The Washington Quarterly 37, no. 1 (2014): 35-47.

Shows that dictators are increasingly vulnerable to mass-led revolts and decreasingly susceptible to coups; today’s dictators must contend with the threats emanating from the elite, as well as the people they govern.

"Autocratic Breakdown and Regime Transitions: A New Data Set" (with Barbara Geddes and Joesph Wright). Perspectives on Politics 12, no. 2 (2014): 313-331.

Offers a new data set measuring the start and end dates of autocratic regimes; shows that about half of the time that dictatorships collapse, new dictatorships are established instead of democracies.

"Mimicking Democracy to Prolong Autocracies" (with Andrea Kendall-Taylor). The Washington Quarterly 37, no. 4 (2014): 71-84.

Examines how dictatorships now nearly always rely on pseudo-democratic institutions to maintain power (such as regular elections, multiple political parties, and legislatures) and that this helps explain the increasing durability of today’s dictatorships.

"A Dictator's Toolkit: Understanding How Cooptation Affects Repression in Autocracies" (with Andrea Kendall-Taylor). Journal of Peace Research 51, no. 3 (2014): 1-15.

Discusses how a dictator’s reliance on multiple political parties and a legislature as a form of cooptation changes how repression is used: it decreases empowerment rights restrictions, such as censorship, while increasing physical integrity rights violations, such as torture.

"When Dictators Die" (with Andrea Kendall Taylor). Journal of Democracy 27, no. 4 (2016): 159-171.

Shows that when dictators die in office of natural causes, the regime nearly always remains in tact in the years to come; death in office is rarely destabilizing for dictatorships.

In the News

Erica Frantz quoted in Torrey Taussig, "The Succession Dilemma" The American Interest, March 16, 2018.
"Putin's Succession Conundrum," Erica Frantz (with Andrea Kendall-Taylor), Foreign Affairs, March 21, 2018.
"Did Xi Jinping Just Become China’s Strongman? Not Quite," Erica Frantz (with Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Joseph Wright), The Washington Post, March 13, 2018.
Erica Frantz quoted in Doug Saunders, "Why Xi Jinping’s Cult of Personality is More Dangerous than it Looks" The Globe and Mail, March 2, 2018.
Erica Frantz quoted in Max Fisher, "Xi Sets China on a Collision Course with History" New York Times, February 28, 2018.
Erica Frantz quoted on the stability of authoritarian regimes, "How Xi Jinping's 'Lifetime Presidency' Could Change China - For Better or Worse" MENAFN, February 27, 2018.
"What Happens When a Strongman Dictator Creates His Own Political Party?," Erica Frantz, Democratic Audit, October 24, 2017.
"What Went Wrong for Mugabe? Most Aging Dictators Don’t Get Toppled by Coups.," Erica Frantz (with Andrea Kendall-Taylor), The Washington Post, November 22, 2017.
"When Dictators Die," Erica Frantz (with Andrea Kendall-Taylor), Foreign Policy, September 10, 2015.
"Autocrats Now More Vulnerable to Being Ousted by Revolt," Erica Frantz (with Andrea Kendall-Taylor), The Washington Post, April 4, 2014.
"What Strongmen Have to Fear," Erica Frantz (with Andrea Kendall-Taylor), Foreign Policy, June 2, 2014.
"How Oil Helps Dictatorships Survive," Erica Frantz (with Barbara Geddes and Joesph Wright), The Washington Post, June 17, 2014.
"Burkina Faso and the Growing Vulnerability of Autocrats to Revolt," Erica Frantz, The Washington Post, November 12, 2014.
"How Democratic Institutions are Making Dictatorships More Durable," Erica Frantz (with Andrea Kendall-Taylor), The Washington Post, March 19, 2015.
"Are Coups Good for Democracy?," Erica Frantz (with George Derpanopoulos), The Washington Post, February 22, 2016.
"The New Dictators: Why Personalism Rules," Erica Frantz (with Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Joesph Wright), Foreign Affairs, September 26, 2016.
"When Ailing Dictators Die in Office, What Happens Next?," Erica Frantz (with Andrea Kendall-Taylor), The Washington Post, December 1, 2016.
"How Democracies Fall Apart: Why Populism is a Pathway to Autocracy," Erica Frantz (with Andrea Kendall-Taylor), Foreign Affairs, December 5, 2016.