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Do more unequal countries redistribute more? does the median voter hypothesis hold?

  • Milanovic, Branko

The median voter hypothesis is important to endogenous growth theories because it provides the political mechanisms through which voters in more unequal countries re-distribute a greater proportion of income and thus (it is argued), by blunting incentives, reduce the country's growth rate. But he hypothesis was never properly tested because of lack of data on the distribution of (pre-tax and transfer) factor income across households, and hence on the exact amount of gain by the poorest quintile of poorest half. The author tests the hypothesis using t9 observations drawn from household budget surveys from 24 democracies. The data strongly support the hypothesis that countries with more unequal distribution of factor income redistribute more in favor of the poor - even when the analysis controls for the older people's share in total population (that is, for pension transfers). The evidence on the median voter hypothesis is much weaker. The author does find that middle-income groups gain more (or lose less) through redistribution in countries whereinitial (factor) income distribution is more unequal. This regularity evaporates, however, when pensions are dropped from social transfers and the focus is strictly on the more re-distributive social transfers.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 2264.

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Date of creation: 31 Dec 1999
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2264
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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.
  2. Rodrik, Dani & Alesina, Alberto, 1994. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," Scholarly Articles 4551798, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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