When Inequality Matters: The Role of Wealth During England's Democratic Transition

Ali Ahmed (New York University)

Abstract: Do democratic reforms confer equal benefits to all citizens? Or are the material gains from such transitions conditioned by pre-existing inequalities? In this study, I exploit quasi-random variation in land concentration to examine the evolving effects of wealth inequality following two separate waves of democratization in nineteenth-century England. I use the geographic boundary between distinct pre-Norman historical states in a regression discontinuity design (RDD) framework to identify how the initial differences in wealth distribution across these historical states impacted the evolution of development and well-being during England's gradual transition toward a more inclusive democracy. The paper contributes to the literature on the historical origins of present-day institutions and the implications of wealth inequality for human development in transitional democracies.

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