Cabinet ministers and inequality

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Scholars and commentators increasingly wonder whether governments’ failure to address socio-economic inequalities is the result of unequal representation. Recent literature on policy responsiveness in the United States and Europe finds evidence that party and parliamentary policy proposals and actual policy outcomes are closer to the preferences of the rich than of the poor. However, the extent and character of such unequal representation remains thinly understood. Among the most thinly understood mechanisms are the political conditions that link socio-economic inequalities to unequal representation. This paper thickens our understanding of (unequal) representation by investigating the class composition of parliamentary cabinets and its effect on social welfare policy. With the aid of a new dataset on cabinet ministers’ social class, the paper shows that responsiveness to the social welfare preferences of poorer voters varies by cabinet ministers’ professional backgrounds, above and beyond the partisan orientation of the government.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)326-350
Number of pages25
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Research
Issue number2
Early online date6 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2022


  • cabinet ministers
  • social class
  • representation
  • social welfare policy


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