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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
December 2023
Print publication year:
Online ISBN:
Creative Commons:
Creative Common License - CC Creative Common License - BY Creative Common License - NC
This content is Open Access and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence CC-BY-NC 4.0

Book description

While economic inequality has risen in every affluent democracy in North America and Western Europe, the last three decades have also been characterized by falling or stagnating levels of state-led economic redistribution. Why have democratically accountable governments not done more to distribute top-income shares to citizens with low- and middle-income? Unequal Democracies offers answers to this question, bringing together contributions that focus on voters and their demands for redistribution with contributions on elites and unequal representation that is biased against less-affluent citizens. While large and growing bodies of research have developed around each of these perspectives, this volume brings them into rare dialogue. Chapters also incorporate analyses that center exclusively on the United States and those that examine a broader set of advanced democracies to explore the uniqueness of the American case and its contribution to comparative perspectives. This book is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.


‘Why have advanced democracies so broadly failed to address the growth of economic inequality? This rich volume brings together a wide range of leading scholars to explore the roles of citizens, elites, government policymakers, and the mass media. This is a vital contribution at a time when many citizens are disillusioned with their governments and, perhaps, with democracy itself.'

Martin Gilens - University of California, Los Angeles

‘Based on cutting-edge research by the leading experts in the field, this book tackles the important political puzzle: why did the redistributive efforts of many governments decline over recent decades even as income inequality increased? Its wide-ranging and illuminating essays will be of interest to everyone concerned about issues of inequality.'

Peter A. Hall - Harvard University

‘Why don't democratic governments respond to what their citizens want? Unequal Democracies fills a massive lacuna in the literature with nuanced answers and sophisticated analyses of cross-national evidence. By distinguishing opinions, preferences, and interests and then considering how they are formed and represented by institutions, the authors transform our understanding of how to promote more equitable policies and polities.'

Margaret Levi - Stanford University

‘This volume offers a set of crucial contributions to our understanding of the political consequences of rising inequality. The editors have put together a truly impressive group of scholars who provide state-of-the-art analysis of the political puzzles linking unequal economies to unequal democracies. A must-read for students of comparative politics.'

David Rueda - University of Oxford

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Full book PDF
  • Unequal Democracies
    pp i-i
  • SSRC Anxieties of Democracy - Series page
    pp ii-ii
  • Sponsored by the Social Science Research Council - Series page
    pp iii-iv
  • Copyright page
    pp vi-vi
  • Contents
    pp vii-viii
  • Figures
    pp ix-xii
  • Tables
    pp xiii-xiv
  • Contributors
    pp xv-xviii
  • Acknowledgments
    pp xix-xx
  • 1 - The Political Puzzle of Rising Inequality
    pp 1-26
  • Part I - Government Responsiveness
    pp 27-130
  • 4 - Measuring Political Inequality
    pp 77-97
  • Part II - Political Inequality and Representation
    pp 131-216
  • 7 - How Do the Educated Govern?
    pp 156-176
  • Evidence from Spanish Mayors
  • 8 - Working-Class Officeholding in the OECD
    pp 177-195
  • Part III - Voters and Demand for Redistribution
    pp 217-324
  • 10 - Fairness Reasoning and Demand for Redistribution
    pp 219-244
  • 13 - Class and Social Policy Representation
    pp 300-324
  • Bibliography
    pp 325-358
  • Index
    pp 359-365


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