The political Kuznets curve for Russia: Income inequality, rent seeking regional elites and empirical determinants of protests during 2011/2012
The goal of this paper is to apply the theory of the political Kuznets curve to Russia and reveal the key determinants of the probability of recent protests during 2011-2012 in the Russian regions. We apply the political Kuznets curve in the time and spatial dimensions, and find mixed evidence: throughout time, we observe an almost linear and positive relation between income and income distribution, whereas in the spatial dimension there exists an evidence of a concave curve. Empirical investigation of the role of income inequality using the latent variable framework allows us to outmanoeuvre certain measurement issues and state that conventional measures of income inequality, such as the Gini coefficient, may not be able to predict protests. Instead, we use the relation of the governors' family income to the average family income in the region, a proxy for rent-seeking of regional elites, which turns out to be a positive, significant and robust determinant of the protests. Applying additional controls ensures the robustness of the results and highlights the fact that democracy score and the economic factors are also significant. Mapping the distribution of the protests provides information on the clustering effect.
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