1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Special Events (2000 - 2009)

The Effect of Political Regimes on Inequality, 1963-2002 (Draft)

This paper provides evidence on the relationship between economic inequality and political regime.Much of the literature argues that democracy is egalitarian, but the papere finds that it is not, and suggests that the conventional argument is an artifact of the data scales commonly in use. Using the latest UTIP-UNIDO data set on economic inequality and an original, categorical data set on regimes, the paper finds that particular regime types do influence the level of inequality. In particular, communist countries and Islamic republics are more equal than their economic characteristics would predict, while conservative (as distinct from social) democracies are somewhat less equal than otherwise expected. Further, within democratic countries with changing governments and policies, the papers finds short-term shifts in the level of inequality. However, these are generally smaller than those associated with major differences of regime type.

The paper is structured as follows: we first discuss the literature on democracy, inequality and political regimes; it then describes the political classification scheme and methodology; it then presents a model of economic inequality based on regime type and economic and demographic indicators. The paper concludes with policy implications of these findings.