Democracy and Income Inequality in Comparative Perspective: United States and South Africa, 1995-2015
Gibson, Julie Ann
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CitationGibson, Julie Ann. 2019. Democracy and Income Inequality in Comparative Perspective: United States and South Africa, 1995-2015. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractMy research is driven by two questions that investigate the relationship between democracy and income inequality amongst marginalized groups in the United States and South Africa: (1) Are marginalized groups steered toward political participation at the expense of economic empowerment? (2) If so, does income inequality pose a risk to democratic consolidation in these countries? In other words, is this electorate satisfied with the status quo, or might there be triggers that will cause these groups to press for more economic inclusion and elasticity in democratic institutions?
To answer the first question, I investigated the activities of advocacy groups including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the United States, and the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, both of which are institutions that advocate on behalf of marginalized groups in their respective countries. I found that advocacy institutions did focus their efforts more broadly in the political arena. For the second question, I theorized that extreme economic inequality in these countries is a threat to liberal democracy as dissatisfaction with the status quo might call into question state legitimacy. However, my review of survey data found that although marginalized groups expect governments to do more to address income inequality, they are overwhelmingly satisfied with their current democratic governance.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42004179