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Analysis Of Income Inequality And Policy Representation In The American States By Patrick Flavin

729 words - 3 pages

In his article “Income Inequality and Policy Representation in the American States,” Patrick Flavin examined differential policy representation based on citizens’ household incomes. Political Scientists and other scholars have compiled strong empirical evidence over the past 50 years proving that government policies tend to correspond to the aggregated political opinions of the public at both the national and state levels. Flavin hypothesized that some citizens tend to have their political opinions better represented than others, and thus America should be considered an “unequal democracy.” Flavin believed that citizens with low incomes have been underrepresented by the policy decisions made by state governments when compared with more affluent citizens. This unequal representation has continued to occur, according to Flavin, because the more affluent tend to participate more in politics, whether it be voting, contributing to or volunteering for a campaign, contacting elected officials, or any other participatory act, compared with disadvantaged citizen. Thus, if elected officials are more responsive to citizens who actively get involved in politics and affluent citizens are significantly more likely to get involved than citizens with low incomes, then it should come as no surprise that elected officials have been more responsive to the political opinions of their high-income constituents.
Flavin began by distinguishing groups are low income (US$0-US$35,000), middle income (US$35,000-US$75,000), and high income (US$75,000 or greater). Doing so allowed Flavin to evaluate the relative influence of each income group’s opinions and compare it with the others. He then used a “responsiveness” method to examine unequal policy responsiveness on three salient social issues: (a) the death penalty, (b) abortion, and (c) gun control laws. These three particular issues were chosen, according to Flavin, because, “citizens can reasonably be expected to hold coherent opinions without extensive knowledge about politics” (p.37). Flavin argued and empirically demonstrated that elected officials are most likely to follow public opinion on these types of “easy” issues.
Flavin pooled data from the 1988-1990-1992 Senate Election Study conducted by the American National Election Studies and found that citizens with low incomes held the most distinct political...

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