Inequality, Redistribution, and Population
with Quoc-Anh Do. [PDF]
We document a negative relationship between population size and inequality in the cross-country data. We propose an explanation built on the existence of a size effect in the political economy of redistribution, particularly in the presence of different channels of popular request for redistribution, e.g. “institutional” channels and “revolutions”. Based on the assumption that the threat of revolution is directly related to the number of people that may attempt to revolt, the theory predicts that the stylized fact initially uncovered by the paper can be refined as follows: there is a negative relationship between population size, and its geographical concentration, and post-tax inequality in non-democracies. We subject these predictions to extensive empirical scrutiny in a cross-country context, and the data robustly confirm these patterns of inequality, population, and the interaction with democracy.