Income Inequality is Detrimental to Political and Civil Equality

“Money provides power and power provides freedom”, asserted C. Wright Mills in his masterpiece The Power Elite sixty years ago (1956: 162). In shadow of recent several decades of globalization and neoliberalism, University of Utah researcher Wade Cole took Mills’ argument a step further and conducted an extensive study to actually probe the relationship between political, civil, and economic inequality around the world. Because of its empirical breadth, and scholarly and publicly important findings, Cole’s sound article “Poor and powerless: Economic and political inequality in cross-national perspective, 1981–2011” is impressive and worth sharing.

“Using data for up to 136 countries between 1981 and 2011, this study analyzes whether and how income inequality affects the distribution of political power for, and respect for the civil liberties of, a society’s rich and poor people. When income inequality is high, do rich people command greater political power and enjoy stronger civil liberties than poor people do? To answer these questions, the study uses both pooled regression analyses and two-stage models with instrumental variables to identify causal effects. The results are decisive: income inequality is inimical to both political and civil equality. These findings hold for developed as well as developing countries and for democratic as well as nondemocratic countries.”

political-income inequlity worldwide


Cole, Wade M. 2018. “Poor and powerless: Economic and political inequality in cross-national perspective.” International Sociology 33(3): 357-385.



Join Economic Sociology and Political Economy community via
Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / Instagram / Tumblr / Reddit / Telegram



  1. Makes sense, since the more you have to scramble for money the less you can donate and the less likely you can take time off from work to vote.

    Like I tell my friends, in China money flows towards power and in America power flows towards money.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s