In this immensely ambitious, careful, and data-rich study, Pop-Eleches and Tucker do not merely explore the historical legacy of communism in eastern Europe; they also tackle the far more difficult problem of distinguishing its impact from that of other factors. They compare contemporary attitudes in postcommunist countries with those in societies never ruled by communist regimes on issues such as democracy and market-based economics (less support in postcommunist states), government-funded social welfare programs (more support in postcommunist states), and gender equality (not much difference between the two groups). It is often hard to determine how much those differences are due to the communist past rather than historical features that predated communism or factors that transcend the nature of political systems, such as what the authors refer to as “geographic location.” But Pop-Eleches and Tucker succeed in that task by applying a highly refined theoretical model to their large data sets. Those trying to pin down with greater precision the legacy of communism now have a model to emulate.
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