Review

Can democracy work for the poor?

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Science  04 Sep 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6508, pp. 1188-1192
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb4912

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Abstract

Millions of the world’s poorest people now live in middle-income democracies that, in theory, could use their resources to end extreme poverty. However, citizens in those countries have not succeeded in using the vote to ensure adequate progressive redistribution. Interventions aiming to provide the economically vulnerable with needed resources must go beyond assisting them directly, they must also improve democratic institutions so that vulnerable populations themselves can push their representatives to implement redistributive policies. Here, I review the literature on such interventions and then consider the “democracy catch-22”: How can the poor secure greater democratic influence when the existing democratic playing field is tilted against them?

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