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The Political Effects of Inequality in Latin America: Some Inconvenient Facts

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Recent books by Carles Boix and by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson provide bold theoretical arguments about how economic inequality can undermine the survival of democracy. Many of their key assumptions, however, are called into question by existing research on "third wave" Latin American democracies. There is little evidence that the poor are more likely to vote for higher taxes or for left parties, and survey research does not indicate that poor people are more likely to think the distribution of income is unfair. More sustained examination of American democracy by Larry M. Bartels reaches parallel conclusions. A more careful examination of political economy assumptions about the relationship between actors' objective economic circumstances and their perceived interests and behavior is needed.
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Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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