This paper introduces a new methodology to examine the empirical relationship
between democracy and economic growth. Democratic institutions are assumed to affect growth through a series of channels. We specify and estimate a full system of equations determining growth and the channel variables. Results suggest that democracy fosters growth by improving the accumulation of human capital and, less robustly, by lowering income inequality. On the other hand, democracy hinders growth by reducing the rate of physical capital accumulation and, less robustly, by raising the ratio of government consumption to GDP. Once all of these indirect effects are accounted for, the overall effect of democracy on economic growth is moderately negative. Our results indicate that democratic institutions are responsive to the demands of the poor by expanding access to education and lowering income inequality, but do so at the expense of physical capital accumulation.