Economic development has consequences for many aspects of social life. Some of these social consequences, in turn, have an impact on a nation's political life. Studies of social mobilization, for example, have demonstrated that economic development is associated with sharp increases in the general level of political participation. These studies report strong relationships between aggregate socio-economic measures such as per capita income, median level of education, and percentage of the population in urban areas, on one hand, and aggregate measures of political participation, such as voting turnout, on the other. Simultaneously, scholars conducting surveys of individual political participation consistently have reported that an individual's social status, education, and organizational memberships strongly affect the likelihood of his engaging in various types of political activities.
In spite of the consistency of both sets of findings across many studies and although the findings appear frequently in analysis of political stability, democracy, and even strategies of political growth, we know little about the connections between social structure and political participation. With few exceptions the literature on individual participation is notable for low level generalizations (the better educated citizen talks about politics more regularly), and the absence of systematic and comprehensive theory. While the literature on the growth of national political participation has been more elaborate theoretically, the dependence on aggregate measures has made it difficult to determine empirically how these macro social changes structure individuals' life experiences in ways which alter their political behavior.