This research seeks to identify the factors that account for the variation in development levels across nations by focusing on the institutional components of development, especially the effects of financial market development on economic and political development.;I argue that financial market institutions are critical to economic and political development, and provide a partial explanation for the variation in development observed across nations. Financial market development affects political development indirectly through greater economic efficiency and growth and directly by reducing poverty, increasing economic equality, strengthening the middle class and increasing political participation. Increased financial market development also produces more efficient institutions and eliminates certain perverse incentives in government that result in corruption.;The action mechanisms rest largely on the idea that increasing access to financial services allows the lower and middle-income segments of society to smooth their income and invest in high return activities that can lift people out of poverty. These improvements distribute both economic and intellectual resources throughout society and provide greater opportunities for political entrepreneurship from all societal groups. This, along with greater ability to participate either through monetary means or greater time, increases political participation and democratic development.;Using a variety of econometric techniques to analyze data on 190 countries over 28 years (1975-2003), I show that financial market development has a significant effect in several areas of development. Specifically, I find that financial market development reduces poverty and income inequality and reduces the level of corruption. Increasing financial market development also increases political competition and civil rights protection in addition to increasing the effectiveness of government and regulatory levels.;Ultimately, I assert that while financial market factors have not been previously targeted as sources for development, they may provide an effective policy tool for fostering equitable development in a variety of economic and political situations. I further argue that the state must have a greater role in development than the prevailing neoliberal paradigm prescribes, and must actively seek to develop institutions that support financial market development.