Previous research has provided contested hypotheses about the impact of income inequality on electoral participation. This study reexamines the debate between conflict and relative power theories by focusing on a largely ignored factor: social mobility. We argue that social mobility conditions the inequality-participation nexus by alleviating the frustration, class conflict, and efficacy gaps between the rich and the poor that the prevailing theories assume income inequality to create. By utilizing the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, we test this argument focusing on US counties. Our analysis confirms that the effects of income inequality on citizens’ likelihood of voting vary depending on mobility, suggesting that social mobility provides a crucial context in which income inequality can play out in substantially different ways. This article implies that more scholarly endeavors should be made to clarify the multifaceted structure of inequality for improving our understanding of the relationship between economic and political inequality.
Kim D, Kim M, Lee S-J. Income Inequality, Social Mobility, and Electoral Participation in the US Counties: Revisiting the Inequality-Participation Nexus. Political Studies. December 2021. doi:10.1177/00323217211059433