Democrats are increasingly focused on income inequality, and that may be nothing more than a reflection of representative government. According to new research by The Atlantic's Richard Florida, Democrats in Congress center legislation that targets income inequality because voters who elect them live in cities that face the most severe inequality.
Florida teamed with a researcher at the Martin Prosperity Institute to look at associations between income inequality in U.S. cities and the votes cast in the 2012 presidential election for incumbent President Barack Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney.
Their research revealed that "more liberal metros tend to be more unequal," he wrote earlier this month. He found a positive correlation "between wage inequality and the share of votes for Obama (0.29), and a negative one between it and the share of votes for Romney (-0.29). It's worth pointing out that relationship between liberalness (based on the metro share of Obama votes) and income inequality. This may reflect the higher wages and higher levels of transfers to low-income groups in bigger metros, while poverty has tended to be deeper and more entrenched in smaller Southern metros that lean red."
Florida also found that the larger the city, the more unequal and the more liberal. Plus, denser populations tend to be more liberal.
And the situation may get worse. "As more and more educated and affluent Americans move back into these blue cities, they are only becoming more unequal, and these trends may yet accelerate further," Florida wrote.
In March, The Associated Press reported that Democrats, not Republicans, represent the country's wealthiest districts. "Of the 10 richest House districts, only two have Republican congressmen. Democrats claim the top six, sprinkled along the East and West coasts. Most are in overwhelmingly Democratic states such as New York and California," AP's Stephen Ohlemacher wrote.
But The Atlantic's Michael Zuckerman clarified that while Democrats represent the wealthiest districts, they also represent districts with the greatest income disparities within the districts.
"Considered alongside these well-established trends, the fact that Democrats represent districts that are (on average) more unequal than Republican districts suggests that the parties may have such divergent views on income inequality in part because their members (and constituents) have divergent experiences of income inequality," Zuckerman writes.
Zuckerman says it's feasible that Democratic congressmen "regularly pass between some of the richest and poorest neighborhoods in America within a few minutes, it's not shocking that they might see income inequality as a bigger problem" than Republicans.