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The Evolution of Suffrage Institutions in the New World



Extreme variation in the extent of inequality emerged early across the New World colonies established by the Europeans, and we hypothesized in previous work that these contrasts persisted over time through systematic differences in the ability and inclination of elites to shape legal frameworks to advantage themselves. We find support for this view in how the rules governing the extension of suffrage evolved over time within the United States, and across the societies of the Americas. Polities with labor scarcity and greater equality generally led in broadening the franchise and attaining high rates of participation in elections.



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