What are the political effects of increasing inequality?

Kevin Lewis reports some new research to us:

Economic Inequality and Democratic Support

Jonathan Krieckhaus et al.
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Does economic inequality influence citizens’ support for democracy? Political economy theory suggests that in a country with high inequality, the majority of the population will support democracy as a potential mechanism for redistribution. Much of the survey and area-studies literature, by contrast, suggests that inequality generates political disillusion and regime dissatisfaction. To clarify this disagreement, we distinguish between prospective versus retrospective evaluations as well as between egocentric versus sociotropic evaluations. We test the resulting hypotheses in a multilevel analysis conducted in 40 democracies. We find that citizens are retrospective and sociotropic, meaning that higher levels of economic inequality reduce support for democracy amongst all social classes. We also find a small prospective egocentric effect, in that the reduction in democratic support in highly unequal countries is slightly less severe amongst the poor, suggesting they believe that democracy might increase future redistribution.

I do not see an ungated copy, but the data for the paper are available here.


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