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Does Libertè = Egalité? A Survey of the Empirical Links between Democracy and Inequality with Some Evidence on the Transition Economies

  • Mark Gradstein
  • Branko Milanovic

The effect of the distribution of political rights on income inequality has been studied both theoretically and empirically. This paper reviews the existing literature and, in particular, the available empirical evidence. Our reading of the literature suggests that formal exclusion from the political process through restrictions on the voting franchise appears to have caused a high degree of economic inequality, and democratization in the form of franchise expansion especially for women, has more often than not led to an expansion in redistribution, at least in the small sample of episodes studied. In a less pronounced way, albeit more emphatically compared to the ambiguous results of the earlier research, the recent evidence indicates an inverse relationship between other measures of democracy, based on civil liberties and political rights, and inequality. The transition experience of the East European countries, however, seems to some extent to go against these conclusions. This, in turn, opens possible new vistas for research, namely the need to incorporate the length of democratic experience and the role played by ideology and social values. Copyright Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 2004.

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Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal Journal of Economic Surveys.

Volume (Year): 18 (2004)
Issue (Month): 4 (09)
Pages: 515-537

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Handle: RePEc:bla:jecsur:v:18:y:2004:i:4:p:515-537
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  1. Alesina, Alberto & Perotti, Roberto, 1994. "The Political Economy of Growth: A Critical Survey of the Recent Literature," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 8(3), pages 351-71, September.
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  6. Husted, Thomas A & Kenny, Lawrence W, 1997. "The Effect of the Expansion of the Voting Franchise on the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 54-82, February.
  7. Perotti, Roberto, 1993. "Political Equilibrium, Income Distribution, and Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(4), pages 755-76, October.
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  12. Gouveia, Miguel & Masia, Neal A, 1998. " Does the Median Voter Model Explain the Size of Government?: Evidence from the States," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 97(1-2), pages 159-77, October.
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