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Political polarization is a driving force in income inequality

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Once again, researchers have found that political polarization is a driving force in income inequality.

According to a study published in the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, the two major American political parties are pretty good at looking out economically for their own constituents, and that's it.

“The partisan difference in policy reflects the redistributive difference in the policy’s consequences for the core constituents of the Democratic and Republican parties,” the study’s authors concluded.

Democrats are concerned about unemployment, the Republicans about inflation and wages, according to the study. The result is a seesawing of economic priorities that lead to “another pathway by which inequality is transmitted.”

“The mounting polarization in America may mean that, more than ever, attempts by political leaders to pacify their core supporters wind up leaving others out in the cold,” The Atlantic’s Gillian B. White wrote in response to the study.

This isn’t the first study to make such claims. A Princeton study that looked at voter partisanship and income found that from 1956 to 1996, “partisanship has become more stratified by income.”

In recent years, the study argues, party affiliation is often directly tied to one’s tax bracket. Because voters vote for their own economic interests, the two parties are basically in a constant tug-of war over the economy.

Another study, released last year by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, found that while there are various causes to both income inequality and increased partisanship, the two seem inextricably linked.

“Both income inequality and political polarization are endogenous (or internal) variables that feed back on each other,’ the study concluded.

While the idea that party polarization is negatively impacting the fight to curb income inequality isn’t new, or particularly novel, it’s important to remember that this hasn’t always been the case.

As the three studies referenced above mention, polarization and inequality began to increase at hyper speed starting in the 1970s. Historically, both parties had a mixture of rich and poor constituents that voted their interests, maintaining an economic balance for much of the second half of the 20th century.

That is no longer the case, and such a change isn’t doing the economy any favors.

JJ Feinauer is a writer and Web producer for Deseret News National. Email: jfeinauer@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: jjfeinauer.