Working paper
Open access

Income inequality and the descriptive representation of income

ContributorsSzulkin, Jan
Number of pages51
First online date2021-12-03

Politicians worldwide are positively selected in terms of income. But does the distribution of income affect the degree of overrepresentation? Mounting evidence suggests a link between economic inequality and an upper-income bias in various forms of political representation, such as policy responsiveness and turnout. This paper provides the first study of the association between income inequality and descriptive political representation by income. I explore how politicians' income levels relate to income inequality using Swedish register data covering the universe of municipal politicians from 1982–2014. A common hypothesis posits that income inequality concentrates political power to top-income earners and therefore demobilizes citizens with low incomes from political engagement. I find no support for this hypothesis. Rather, higher income inequality is associated with better descriptive representation by income. Left parties mainly drive this, as they appear to mobilize low-income segments of the populationwith higher income inequality.

  • European Commission - Unequal Democracies [741538]
Citation (ISO format)
SZULKIN, Jan. Income inequality and the descriptive representation of income. 2021
Main files (1)
Working paper
  • PID : unige:156941

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