Do dictatorships redistribute more?



Abstract: This paper examines the effect of political institutions on fiscal redistribution for a country-level panel from 1960–2010. Using data on Gini coefficients before and after government intervention, we apply a measure of effective fiscal redistribution that reflects the effect of taxes and transfers on income inequality. Our findings clearly indicate that non-democratic regimes demonstrate significantly greater direct fiscal redistribution. Subsequently, we employ fiscal data in an attempt to enlighten this puzzling empirical finding. We find that dictatorial regimes rely more heavily on cash transfers that exhibit a direct impact on net inequality and consequently on the difference between market and net inequality (i.e., effective fiscal redistribution), whereas democratic regimes devote a larger amount of resources to public inputs (health and education) that may influence market inequality but not the difference between market and net inequality per se. We argue that the driving force behind the observed differences within the pattern on government spending and effective fiscal redistribution is that democratic institutions lead survival-oriented leaders to care more for the private market, and thus to follow policies that enhance the productivity of the whole economy.