Addressing public misunderstandings of what democracy and capitalism are, how they function, and why they shape societies

Well-functioning democracies rely on the reasoned participation of a mass of citizens to represent the public will. Likewise, capitalist systems that steadily increase standards of living require well-crafted incentives and entrepreneurial vigor across demographic groups. Unfortunately, a large percentage of the public struggle to understand what democracy and capitalism are and how they function.

The Project on Democracy and Capitalism provides resources to students and instructors at all educational levels that help them define these concepts, understand their dynamics, and determine how to improve them over time.

To accomplish this mission, the Project on Democracy and Capitalism has created:

  • DemCap Analytics, an interactive database and interface through which students, teachers, and faculty can access and analyze hundreds of datasets;
  • A comprehensive suite of case studies on issues essential to democratic and capitalism systems;
  • Courses pertaining to Democracy and Capitalism at the University of Virginia.

DemCap Analytics

DemCap Analytics (DCA) is an interactive database and interface through which students, teachers, and faculty can access hundreds of datasets from more than 30 sources including the World Bank, IMF, Federal Reserve, and more than a dozen think tanks. DCA also includes a suite of analytical tools and expert instruction related to the principal elements of democracy and capitalism.

This interface gives you...

  • An understanding of the core-elements of democratic and capitalist systems
  • A consolidated database for statistical information
  • Digital tools that allow users to compare and contrast data across geography and time, as well as draw correlations among distinct attributes
  • Repositories that translate academic work on democracy and capitalism for an educated, popular audience through visualizations and interactive tools
screen shot of forthcoming DemCap Analytics. site


This digital archive/interactive will provide more than data and analytical tools to teachers, students, and the general public. It will offer sample teaching plans and exercises that will help users dig into the data archive. Examples of teaching plans:

  • “Building a dynamic climate economy”
  • “Political freedom and innovation”
  • "Developing economy industrial policy: Tradeoffs and institution building”
  • “Inequality in the 21st century: Can growth and economic mobility co-exist?”


  • 14 major categories: Private property, social mobility, economic mobility, price mechanisms, size of government, open markets, competition, rule of law, credit and money, freedom of enterprise, entrepreneurship, labor, inequality, and innovation
  • 39 subcategories, including: Intellectual property rights, intergenerational income elasticity, price controls, subsidies and transfers, voluntary exchange, profit motive, taxation, state-owned capital, size of public sector, industry consolidation, labor organization, access to credit, sound money, depth of capital markets, startup capacity
  • 10 major categories: Rule of law, division of power, elections, media freedom, human rights, civic participation, pluralism, consent, corruption, and academic freedom
  • 27 subcategories, including: Equality before the law, due process, supremacy of the law, electoral participation, regular elections, independent media, freedom of expression, political pluralism, political competition, satisfaction with government, governmental transparency, academic freedom from indoctrination
Macroeconomic and societal indicators
  • All major categories covered: GDP per capita, unemployment rate, labor force participation rate, persons held in prison per 100,000 people, drug use prevalence, inflation, gini index, central government debt, real interest rates

You can choose....

  • Category: Entrepreneurship
    • Sub-categories: Startups, credit and money, access to credit
      • Accessible datasets (selection):
        • Starting a business (score and rank), World Bank Doing Business Project
        • Getting Credit (score and rank), World Bank Doing Business Project
        • Enforcing contracts (score and rank), World Bank Doing Business Project
        • Dealing with construction permits (score and rank), World Bank Doing Business Project
        • Registering property (score and rank), World Bank Doing Business Project
        • Resolving insolvency (score and rank), World Bank Doing Business Project
        • New business density (new registrations per 1,000 people), World Bank
        • Percent of firms with a checking or savings account, World Bank Enterprise Survey
        • Percent of firms with legal status of sole proprietorship, World Bank Enterprise survey
        • Venture capital availability, World Bank TD360
        • Business freedom, Heritage Foundation Economic Index

Case studies 

Providing real-world scenarios in which students examine the relationship between capitalist and democratic institutions, these case studies include: “What is Capitalism” and “What is Democracy?”; “Inequality and Economic Growth”; “Health Coverage and Small Business Development”; “Political Freedom and Technological Innovation”; and “Economic Development and the State.” The Project aims to have 40 case studies available for public use by the beginning of the 2022–23 academic year


The Project on Democracy and Capitalism sponsors classes offered at the University of Virginia in 2021–22, with three more in development:

  • "Financial Crisis and Civic Reaction"
  • "Democracy and Capitalism"
  • "Democracy and Inequality"