IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Democracy and income inequality : an empirical analysis

  • Gradstein, Mark
  • Milanovic, Branko
  • Ying, Yvonne

Standard political economy theories suggest that democratization has a moderating effect on income inequality. But the empirical literature has failed to uncover any such robust relationship. The authors take another look at the issue. The authors argue that prevailing ideology may be an important determinant of inequality and that the democratization effect"works through"ideology. In societies that value equality highly there is less distributional conflict among income groups, so democratization may have only a negligible effect on inequality. But in societies that value equality less, democratization reduces inequality through redistribution as the poor outvote the rich. The authors'cross-country empirical analysis, covering 126 countries in 1960-98, confirms the hypothesis: ideology, as proxied by a country's dominant religion, seems to be related to inequality. In addition, while in Judeo-Christian societies increased democratization appears to lead to lower inequality, in Muslim and Confucian societies it has an insignificant effect. The authors hypothesize that Muslim and Confucian societies rely on informal transfers to reach the desired level of inequality, while Judeo-Christian societies, where family ties are weaker, use political action.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 2561.

in new window

Date of creation: 31 Mar 2001
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2561
Contact details of provider: Postal: 1818 H Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20433
Phone: (202) 477-1234
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Hochman, Harold M & Rodgers, James D, 1969. "Pareto Optimal Redistribution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(4), pages 542-57, Part I Se.
  2. John Micklewright & John Flemming, 1999. "Income Distribution, Economic Systems and Transition," Papers iopeps99/69, Innocenti Occasional Papers, Economic Policy Series.
  3. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," NBER Working Papers 0042, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Li, Hongyi & Squire, Lyn & Zou, Heng-fu, 1998. "Explaining International and Intertemporal Variations in Income Inequality," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(446), pages 26-43, January.
  5. Easterly, William, 2000. "the middle class consensus and economic development," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2346, The World Bank.
  6. Michael Rothschild & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1972. "Some Further Results on the Measurement of Inequality," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 344, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  7. Atkinson,Anthony Barnes & Micklewright,John, 1992. "Economic Transformation in Eastern Europe and the Distribution of Income," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521433297.
  8. Milanovic, Branko, 2000. "The median-voter hypothesis, income inequality, and income redistribution: an empirical test with the required data," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 367-410, September.
  9. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
  10. Bisin, Alberto & Verdier, Thierry, 2000. "A model of cultural transmission, voting and political ideology," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 5-29, March.
  11. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1999. "Political Economics and Public Finance," CEPR Discussion Papers 2235, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Klaus Deininger & Lyn Squire, 1996. "A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality," CEMA Working Papers 512, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
  13. Beck, Thorsten & Clarke, George & Groff, Alberto & Keefer, Philip & Walsh, Patrick, 2000. "New tools and new tests in comparative political economy - the database of political institutions," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2283, The World Bank.
  14. repec:oup:qjecon:v:114:y:1999:i:3:p:707-738 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. Milanovic, Branko, 1998. "Explaining the increase in inequality during the transition," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1935, The World Bank.
  16. Hillman, Arye L. & Ursprung, Heinrich W., 2000. "Political culture and economic decline," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 189-213, June.
  17. Hongyi Li & Lyn Squire & Tao Zhang & Heng-fu Zou, 1999. "A Data Set on Income Distribution," CEMA Working Papers 575, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
  18. Gradstein, Mark & Justman, Moshe, 2000. "Human capital, social capital, and public schooling," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(4-6), pages 879-890, May.
  19. 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.
  20. Perotti, Roberto, 1996. " Growth, Income Distribution, and Democracy: What the Data Say," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 149-87, June.
  21. Milanovic, Branko & DEC, 1994. "Determinants of cross-country income inequality : an augmented Kuznets hypothesis," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1246, The World Bank.
  22. Ahluwalia, Montek S., 1976. "Inequality, poverty and development," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 307-342, December.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2561. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Roula I. Yazigi)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.