Public opinion on immigration: Has the recession changed minds?
Timothy J Hatton 07 June 2014
In the recent European Parliament elections, right-wing populist parties made significant gains. Commentators have linked the rise of these parties to growing anti-immigration sentiment in the wake of the crisis. This column examines the extent to which public opinion has in fact shifted against immigration. Survey data shows that there was no Europe-wide surge in anti-immigration opinion between 2006 and 2010, although there was a marked change in Spain, Greece, and Ireland. This suggests that populist parties’ success cannot be attributed to anti-immigration sentiment alone.
Migration Politics and economics
democracy, immigration, politics, populism, European parliament
Global income distribution: From the fall of the Berlin Wall to the Great Recession
Christoph Lakner , Branko Milanovic 27 May 2014
Since 1988, rapid growth in Asia has lifted billions out of poverty. Incomes at the very top of the world income distribution have also grown rapidly, whereas median incomes in rich countries have grown much more slowly. This column asks whether these developments, while reducing global income inequality overall, might undermine democracy in rich countries.
The period between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Great Recession saw probably the most profound reshuffle of individual incomes on the global scale since the Industrial Revolution. This was driven by high growth rates of populous and formerly poor or very poor countries like China, Indonesia, and India; and, on the other hand, by the stagnation or decline of incomes in sub-Saharan Africa and post-communist countries as well as among poorer segments of the population in rich countries.
Global economy Politics and economics Poverty and income inequality
democracy, income inequality, globalisation, Inequality
How unequal is the European Parliament’s representation?
Anish Tailor, Nicolas Véron 21 May 2014
The European Parliamentary elections are conducted under rules that give voters power that varies with their nationality. This inequality is higher than in European and US national elections, as well as in large emerging-market democracies like Brazil, India, and Indonesia. Making the distribution more equal would be simple, but would require a change in the EU Treaties.
This week’s European Parliament election (22–25 May) has several unprecedented features. Most importantly, the main pan-European parties are fielding lead candidates for European Commission President. Turning the election into a presidential horse race was intended to increase electoral participation and enhance the Parliament’s democratic legitimacy, even though it remains to be seen whether voters will actually see things this way.
EU institutions Politics and economics
elections, democracy, EU, Inequality, voting, European parliament, treaty change
Will voters turn out in the 2014 European Parliamentary elections?
Owen McDougall, Ashoka Mody 17 May 2014
Turnout in the 2014 European Parliament elections is seen as a critical test for EU democracy. This column presents some predictions. Trust in the ECB – rather than in the European Parliament itself – has been associated with higher turnout in previous elections. Macroeconomic conditions are also important – where a country’s fiscal problems are greater, voters are more inclined to vote.
The extent of voter turnout in the 2014 European Parliamentary (EP) election is widely viewed as a critical test for European democracy. Turnout in the EP elections has steadily declined over three decades, from 62% in the first election in 1979 to 43% in the 2009 election (EP Liaison Office undated). There is great concern that the legitimacy of the EU is at stake should there be a further slide in voter turnout.
EU institutions Politics and economics
elections, ECB, democracy, EU, trust, voting, European parliament, turnout
Democracy causes economic development?
Daron Acemoglu, Suresh Naidu, James A Robinson, Pascual Restrepo 19 May 2014
Many analysts view democracy as a neutral or negative factor for growth. This column discusses new evidence showing that democracy has a robust and sizable pro-growth effect. The central estimates suggest that a country that switches from non-democracy to democracy achieves about 20% higher GDP per capita over the subsequent three decades.
A belief that democracy is bad for economic growth is common in both academic political economy as well as the popular press. Robert Barro’s seminal research in this area concluded that “More political rights do not have an effect on growth...The first lesson is that democracy is not the key to economic growth” (Barro 1997, pp. 1 and 11). Meanwhile, reacting to the rise of China, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman argues:
Development Economic history Education
Newspaper readership, civic attitudes, and economic development: Evidence from the history of African media
Julia Cagé, Valeria Rueda 14 May 2014
African regions where Protestant missionaries were active had indigenous newspapers a century before other regions. This column argues, based on new research, that this difference has had lasting effects. Proximity to a mission that had a printing press in 1903 predicts newspaper readership today. Population density and light density (a proxy for economic development) is also higher today in regions nearer to missions that had printing presses. The results suggest that a well-functioning media – not Protestantism per se – was important for development.
Poor governance due to lack of political accountability is often cited as an explanation for the low level of economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. Lack of political accountability can emerge when voters do not choose their candidates according to their expected performance. In sub-Saharan Africa, voters often use the ethnic profile of a candidate as an informational shortcut for the candidate’s political agenda (Ichino and Nathan 2013). As a consequence, politicians rely on tribal allegiances that deliver the votes of co-ethnics irrespective of performance (Casey 2013).
Development Economic history Institutions and economics Politics and economics
development, democracy, Africa, religion, technology, media, voting, accountability
What voters reward: Evidence from the 2009 Indian parliamentary elections
Poonam Gupta, Arvind Panagariya 17 March 2014
Do voters care about economic outcomes? Evidence on this question, especially in the context of developing countries, is rather scant. This column reports the findings from analysis of the 2009 parliamentary elections in India. Voters favoured parties that delivered high growth in their states and rejected those that did not. The authors also find that voters preferred candidates who had served in the parliament before, were wealthy, educated, and affiliated with a large party.
Despite the intuitive appeal of the idea that good economic outcomes such as sustained rapid growth should help incumbents win elections, evidence on it has been scant, especially from developing countries. In one notable exception, Brender and Drazen (2008) use a comprehensive cross-country dataset spanning over 74 developed and developing democratic countries and 350 election episodes to examine whether GDP growth during the term in office or in the election year helps incumbents win elections.
Politics and economics
democracy, India, voting
Can democracy help with inequality?
Daron Acemoglu, Suresh Naidu, Pascual Restrepo, James A Robinson 07 February 2014
Inequality is currently a prominent topic of debate in Western democracies. In democratic countries, we might expect rising inequality to be partially offset by an increase in political support for redistribution. This column argues that the relationship between democracy, redistribution, and inequality is more complicated than that. Elites in newly democratised countries may hold on to power in other ways, the liberalisation of occupational choice may increase inequality among previously excluded groups, and the middle classes may redistribute income away from the poor as well as the rich.
There is a great deal of concern at the moment about the consequences of rising levels of inequality in North America and Western Europe. Will this lead to an oligarchisation of the political system, and imperil political and social stability? Many find such dynamics puzzling given that it is happening in democratic countries. In democratic societies, there ought to be political mechanisms that can inhibit or reverse large rises in inequality, most likely through the fiscal system.
Politics and economics Poverty and income inequality
democracy, Inequality, redistribution, Median Voter, Director’s Law
The value of democracy in the world’s poorest region: Evidence from Kenya’s road building
Ameet Morjaria 05 February 2014
Ethnic favouritism is a longstanding problem in Africa. This column presents new evidence of this phenomenon and how democracy affects it. Data on road building in Kenya confirms strong ethnic favouritism that disappears during periods of democracy.
An enormous literature points to a diverse set of factors behind Africa’s growth tragedy, ranging from bad policies, poor education, and poor infrastructure, to aging leaders, the historic slave trade, and political instability. Historians, political scientists, and economists have all argued that ethnic favouritism – a situation where coethnics benefit from patronage and public policy decisions – has hampered the economic performance of many African countries.
Development Institutions and economics Politics and economics
democracy, Africa, autocracy, ethnic inequality, public finance