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GINI DP 16: Income Inequality and Voter Turnout


  • Daniel Horn

    () (Institute of Economics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, TÁRKI Social Research Institute (TÁRKI))


The paper looks at the link between inequality and voter turnout, and derives three hypothesis from previous literature. It is shown that inequality associates negatively with turnout at the national elections (hypothesis 1). Although this is not a very strong effect, but it is net of several factors affecting voter turnout that are empirically well proven – such as individual characteristics or different features of the political system. The literature suggests that this negative association is either due to the lower turnout of the poor relative to the rich in high inequality countries (hypothesis 2) or due to the effects of the universal welfare state, which increases turnout through altered social norms as well as decreases inequality through government intervention (hypothesis 3). Although none of the hypotheses were refuted, neither was really supported by the data. I also tested whether inequalities at the top or at the bottom have a different affect on turnout. Although the results, again, are not very robust, it seems that larger differences in income between the very rich and the middle decreases overall turnout, while higher difference between the middle and the very poor increases turnout. This is just the opposite of what is expected from the Downsian rational voter model. JEL codes: D72, D63

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Horn, 2011. "GINI DP 16: Income Inequality and Voter Turnout," GINI Discussion Papers 16, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:aia:ginidp:16

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 2002. "Special Interest Politics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262571676, January.
    2. Serguei Kaniovski & Dennis Mueller, 2006. "Community size, heterogeneity and voter turnouts," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 129(3), pages 399-415, December.
    3. Patricia Funk, 2010. "Social Incentives and Voter Turnout: Evidence from the Swiss Mail Ballot System," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(5), pages 1077-1103, September.
    4. Eiji Yamamura, 2011. "Effects of social norms and fractionalization on voting behaviour in Japan," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(11), pages 1385-1398.
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    Cited by:

    1. Giorgio Bellettini & Carlotta Berti Ceroni & Chiara Monfardini, 2014. "Socio-Economic Heterogeneity and Electoral Turnout: An Aggregate Analysis with Precinct-Level Data," CESifo Working Paper Series 4999, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement


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