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Democracy, Capitalism, and Income Inequality: Seeking Causal Directions

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Recent research shows that lower levels of income inequality cause higher levels of democracy, and vice versa in a simultaneous relationship. A critical factor missing from these studies is a direct exogenous measure of capitalism in models explaining variation in income inequality and democracy. This study examines 50 countries over the years 1978–1993 and finds in a pooled two stage least squares modeling exercise that the Fraser Institute measure of capitalism appears to have a weakly positive linear impact on POLITY IV measures of democracy and a weakly positive linear impact on income inequality (more capitalism, more inequality). There appears to be no higher-order relationship between capitalism and democracy or income inequality, though there is a weak parabolic relationship between democracy and income inequality.

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Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, Boise State University, 1910 University Drive, Boise, ID 83725-1935, USA


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