The Structure of Ethnic Inequality and Ethnic Voting

While some ethnic groups engage in a high level of ethnic voting, many others do not. We argue that where class and ethnic differences overlap, ethnic voting should be elevated. More specifically, we theorize that between-ethnic group inequality (BGI) increases ethnic voting, but that its effect is conditional on the level of within-ethnic group inequality (WGI); when WGI is low the effect of BGI on ethnic voting is strengthened; when WGI is elevated, the effect of BGI is reduced. We present comparative qualitative evidence from several cases and statistical evidence using group-level data on over 200 ethnic groups from 65 countries. We find strong support for our hypothesis: among ethnic groups with low WGI, BGI increases ethnic voting; but among those with high WGI, BGI has no discernible effect.

Paul D. Kenny is research fellow of political and social change at the Australian National University. Paul obtained his PhD in political science at Yale University and has taught at ANU since 2013. He was previously assistant professor of political science at Trinity College Dublin. His current research covers several areas of comparative politics, including the causes and consequences of populism, ethnic politics, and the politics of immigration. His research can be found in the British Journal of Political Science and Government and Opposition among other journals. His first book, Populism and Patronage: Why Populists Win Elections in India, Asia, and Beyond, is forthcoming with Oxford University Press.

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