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Do middle classes bring institutional reforms ?

  • Loayza, Norman
  • Rigolini, Jamele
  • Llorente, Gonzalo

The paper examines the link between poverty, the middle class and institutional outcomes using a new cross-country panel dataset on the distribution of income and expenditure. It uses an econometric methodology to gauge whether a larger middle class has a causal effect on policy and institutional outcomes in three areas: social policy in health and education, market-oriented economic structure and quality of governance. The analysis find that when the middle class becomes larger (measured as the proportion of people earning more than US$10 a day), social policy on health and education becomes more progressive, and the quality of governance (democratic participation and official corruption) also improves. This trend does not occur at the expense of economic freedom, as a larger middle class also leads to more market-oriented economic policy on trade and finance. These beneficial effects of a larger middle class appear to be more robust than the impact of lower poverty, lower inequality or higher gross domestic product per capita. That may be linked to the evolution of the middle class: they are more enlightened, more likely to take political actions and have a stronger voice. They also share preferences and values for policy and institutional reforms, as well as higher stakes in property rights and wealth accumulation.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 6015.

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Date of creation: 01 Mar 2012
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6015
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  1. Roberto Chang & Linda Kaltani & Norman Loayza, 2005. "Openness can be good for Growth: The Role of Policy Complementarities," DEGIT Conference Papers c010_021, DEGIT, Dynamics, Economic Growth, and International Trade.
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  3. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 1999. "From Physical to Human Capital Accumulation: Inequality in the Process of Development," Working Papers 99-27, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  4. Barro, Robert J., 1999. "Determinants of Democracy," Scholarly Articles 3451297, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  6. Luis López-Calva & Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez, 2014. "A vulnerability approach to the definition of the middle class," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 12(1), pages 23-47, March.
  7. Arellano, Manuel & Bover, Olympia, 1995. "Another look at the instrumental variable estimation of error-components models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 29-51, July.
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  9. Alberto Alesina & Dani Rodrik, 1991. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 3668, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Matthias Doepke & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2005. "Social Class and the Spirit of Capitalism," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 516-524, 04/05.
  11. Sarah Voitchovsky, 2005. "Does the Profile of Income Inequality Matter for Economic Growth?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 10(3), pages 273-296, 09.
  12. Murphy, Kevin M & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1989. "Industrialization and the Big Push," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(5), pages 1003-26, October.
  13. Foellmi, Reto & Oechslin, Manuel, 2008. "Why progressive redistribution can hurt the poor," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 738-747, April.
  14. Galor, Oded & Zeira, Joseph, 1988. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," MPRA Paper 51644, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 01 Sep 1989.
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