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Free Content The Threat of Communism during the Cold War: A Constraint to Income Inequality?

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Did the threat of communism influence income distribution in developed capitalist economies during the Cold War? This article addresses this question by testing whether income inequality in OECD countries was related to events linked to the spread of communism—revolutions and Soviet interventions—around the world. We argue that the threat of the spread of communism acted as an incentive for the elites and governments to keep economic inequality low. This article provides an empirical contribution to the recent literature on inequality, which highlights the role of domestic institutions but ignores the role of the Cold War in redistributing income. We find a robust relationship between income inequality and the distance to communist events. The results, reinforced by cases studied, suggest that the spread of communism fostered income redistribution deals between domestic elites and workers. Finally, we show that these effects were reinforced by strong unions and the presence of strong communist parties.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2020

This article was made available online on July 4, 2019 as a Fast Track article with title: "The Threat of Communism during the Cold War: A Constraint to Income Inequality?".

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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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