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Electoral Institutions and the Politics of Coalitions: Why Some Democracies Redistribute More Than Others


Standard political economy models of redistribution, notably that of Meltzer and Richard (1981), fail to account for the remarkable variance in government redistribution across democracies. We develop a general model of redistribution that explains why some democratic governments are more prone to redistribute than others. We show that the electoral system plays a key role because it shapes the nature of political parties and the composition of governing coalitions, hence redistribution. Our argument implies (1) that center-left governments dominate under PR systems, whereas center-right governments dominate under majoritarian systems; and (2) that PR systems redistribute more than majoritarian systems. We test our argument on panel data for redistribution, government partisanship, and electoral system in advanced democracies.

Corresponding author
Torben Iversen is Professor, Department of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.
David Soskice is Research Professor, Department of Political Science, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708.
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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