Do the Wealthy Disproportionally Influence Education Policy?



Martin Gilens, in Affluence and Influence, makes a fairly plausible case that when America’s rich are at odds with the general public, American democracy often follows the preferences of the rich.

This is not to stay that the rich solely support policies that benefit themselves (neither the rich nor the poor always vote in their economic self interest) – only that their policy preferences are more often realized than those of the non-wealthy.

Here’s the “money” chart:


Once 80% of the wealthy agree support change, there is a 50% chance this change will occur.

For those who are middle income, the probability of change occurring actually drops a little the more they support it.

I have not seen data on whether 80% of the wealthy support any major current educational policies, so it’s difficult to determine how much influence their preferences are having.

If someone has access to such polling, let me know.

But there seems to be decent evidence that if 70-80% of the wealthy agreed on certain policies, these policies will more likely be enacted.

Tomorrow or the next day (I’m traveling I’ll week), I’ll try to tackle how these findings should influence those who are trying to reform public education.

Lastly, I’m not arguing that it’s good that the wealthy have more policy influence than the non-wealthy. I’m just saying that it’s likely true, and those looking to make change should be aware of it.

One more thing: Some might consider it obvious that the wealthy have much more policy influence than the middle class. Perhaps I’m naive, but this was never obvious to me, and I’d hadn’t seen this strong of research on the subject before Gilens came out with his book.

HT: Bryan Caplan on the chart.

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