Leadership Age and Experience

I am currently finishing up some slides at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton “International” airport on my way to the Annual Peace Science Conference.  However, given the recent airtime given to Biden’s comments about Obama being tested during the first six months, it worth mentioning two political science articles that have addressed this.

First, Horrowitz et. al. (2006) argue, looking at Militarized Interstate Disputes, that as the leaders age increases, they are more likely to start and escalate militarized disputes.  It is only in personalized dictatorships that have the young increase the propensity for conflict:

The results show that, in general, as the age of leaders increases, they become more likely to both initiate and escalate militarized disputes. In addition, the interaction of age and regime type is significant. In personalist regimes, the general effect reverses; as age increases, the relative risk of conflict declines in comparison to other types of regimes. Increasing leader age in democracies increases the relative risk propensity for conflict initiation at a higher level than for personalist regimes, while the impact of increasing leader age is most substantial in intermediate regimes.

Second, a bit more recently, Potter (2007) offers the inverse conclusion in regards to challenges.  Looking at both MIDs and the ICB dataset:

This article demonstrates that the probability of an international crisis involving the
United States declines as a presidential administration gains time in office. This finding invalidates three widely held theories about the relationship between the American democratic cycle and foreign policy that (1) there might be a honeymoon period immediately following election in which new presidents are unlikely to become involved in foreign crises, (2) presidents might systematically use the ‘‘rally round the flag’’ effect to bolster their electoral prospects, or that more generally, (3) foreign policy might be primarily tied to the democratic constraints of the electoral cycle. This finding also stands in partial contrast to recent work suggesting that, globally, leadership experience does not influence the likelihood of a militarized interstate dispute, while leader age does. The differing conclusions are the result of both the unique American case and the differing formulations of conflict.

Potter controls for experience in the vice-presidency and finds previous experience in the VP does not have an effect on the initiation of crisis while office tenure does decrease such initation.  This does not cover the full range of Biden’s comments, but does provide some empirical looks into the question.

Michael A. Allen

About Michael A. Allen

Michael is an Assistant Professor in Political Science at Boise State University with a focus in International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Methodology (quantitative and formal). His work includes issues related to military basing abroad, asymmetric relations, cooperation, and conflict. He received his Ph.D from Binghamton University in 2011.

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