Poverty, Inequality, and Democracy (II): Does Electoral Democracy Boost Economic Equality?

Issue Date October 2009
Volume 20
Issue 4
Page Numbers 21-35
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Inequalities seem ubiquitous, despite the spread of electoral democracy and what were, until recently, positive rates of economic growth. These seemingly mismatched trends should not surprise us. The advance of democracy entails a decrease in political inequality but does not guarantee decreases in inequalities of other sorts. Economic (and other) inequalities have historically followed their own dynamic, independent of whether electoral democracy exists. The same generalization holds for electoral democracy and poverty. Collective action challenges mean that rising economic inequalities will not be easily reversed. This may harm the quality of contemporary democracies, but is unlikely to cause massive collapse.

About the Author

Nancy Bermeo is senior research fellow in politics at Nuffield College, Oxford University. 

View all work by Nancy Bermeo