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Democracy and Income In-Equality: An Empirical Analysis

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  • Mark Gradstein
  • Branko Milanovic
  • Yvonne Ying

Abstract

While standard political economy theories suggest a moderating effect of democratization on income inequality, empirical literature has failed to uncover any such robust relationship. Here we take yet another look at this issue arguing first, that prevailing ideology may be an important determinant of inequality and, second, that the democratization effect “works through” ideology. In societies where equality is highly valued there is less of a distributional conflict across income groups, hence democratization may have only a negligible effect on inequality. On the other hand, in societies where equality is not valued as much, democratization reduces inequality through redistribution as the poor outvote the rich. Our cross-country empirical analysis, covering the period 1960-98 and 126 countries, confirms the hypothesis: ideology – as proxied by a country’s dominant religion – seems to be related to inequality. But in addition, in Judeo-Christian societies increased democratization appears to lead to lower inequality, while in Muslim and Confucian societies democratization has only an insignificant effect on inequality. We hypothesize that in the latter group of countries, desired level of inequality is reached through informal transfers, while in Judeo-Christian societies where family ties are weaker, desired outcome is achieved by political action.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 411.

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Date of creation: 2001
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_411

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Keywords: Inequality; democracy; religion;

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References

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  1. Milanovic, Branko, 1998. "Explaining the increase in inequality during the transition," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1935, The World Bank.
  2. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 2002. "Political economics and public finance," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 24, pages 1549-1659 Elsevier.
  3. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1998. "New ways of looking at old issues: inequality and growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 259-287.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Branko Milanovic, 2005. "Can We Discern the Effect of Globalization on Income Distribution? Evidence from Household Surveys," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 19(1), pages 21-44.
  2. Carlyn Dobson & Antonio Rodríguez, 2010. "Is Corruption Really Bad for Inequality? Evidence from Latin America," Development Research Working Paper Series 02/2010, Institute for Advanced Development Studies.
  3. Kinda, Somlanare Romuald, 2011. "Democratic Institutions and Environmental Quality: Effects and Transmission Channels," Proceedings of the German Development Economics Conference, Berlin 2011 46, Verein für Socialpolitik, Research Committee Development Economics.
  4. Hisako KAI & Shigeyuki HAMORI, 2009. "Globalization, Financial Depth, and Inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa," Discussion Papers 0912, Graduate School of Economics, Kobe University.
  5. Fabrizio Carmignani, 2005. "Efficiency Of Institutions, Political Stability And Income Dynamics," Public Economics 0503007, EconWPA.
  6. Uwaifo Oyelere, Ruth, 2007. "Within and Between Gender Disparities in Income and Education Benefits from Democracy," IZA Discussion Papers 3221, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Milanovic, Branko & Hoff, Karla & Horowitz, Shale, 2008. "Political alternation as a restraint on investing in influence : evidence from the post-communist transition," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4747, The World Bank.
  8. Rasha Hashim Osman & Constantinos Alexiou & Persefoni Tsaliki, 2012. "The role of institutions in economic development: Evidence from 27 Sub-Saharan African countries," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 39(2), pages 142-160, January.
  9. Shen, Yan & Yao, Yang, 2008. "Does grassroots democracy reduce income inequality in China?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 2182-2198, October.
  10. Muhammad, Shahbaz & Reza, Sherafatian-Jahromi & Muhammad, Nasir Malik, 2012. "Linkages between Defence Spending and Income Inequality in Iran," MPRA Paper 41983, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 14 Oct 2012.
  11. Martin Rama, 2002. "Mondialisation, inégalités et politiques de l'emploi," Revue d’économie du développement, De Boeck Université, vol. 16(1), pages 43-83.
  12. Eric S. Lin & Hamid E. Ali, 2009. "Military Spending and Inequality: Panel Granger Causality Test," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 46(5), pages 671-685, September.
  13. Anneli Kaasa, 2005. "Factors Of Income Inequality And Their Influence Mechanisms: A Theoretical Overview," University of Tartu - Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Working Paper Series 40, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, University of Tartu (Estonia).

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