The Journal of Economic Inequality

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 529–550

Empirics of the median voter: democracy, redistribution and the role of the middle class



This paper improves the empirical investigation on the effectiveness of the median voter theorem. Using high quality data, it is possible to directly observe individual net cash transfers in several countries and to investigate the effects of taxes and transfers on different social classes and in aggregate. This allows testing of both the “redistribution hypothesis” (more inequality leads to more redistribution in aggregate) and the “median voter hypothesis” (the middle class plays a special role in policy making). Results suggest acceptance of the former and reject on, or at least questioning, of the latter. Not only the gains from redistribution are negligible for the middle class, but also the link between income and redistribution is also lower for it than for any other class of income. Moreover, the strength of the median voter seems to fall over time. Finally, the amount of redistribution targeted to the middle class is lower in more asymmetric societies, a result that contrasts strongly with the median voter theorem.


Income distribution Cash redistribution Political process Median voter theorem 

JEL Classification

C23 D31 D72 H24 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics, Business and StatisticsUniversity of MilanMilanoItaly

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