Dynasties in Democracies: The Political Side of Inequality

Far less attention has been given to the mirror image of income inequality in the political sphere: political dynasties. The rise of elected officials with extensive familial links to present and previous politicians in office signals a growing inequality in access to power and political influence. That, in turn, could also affect the persistence and prevalence of social and economic divides. Patterns of political dynasties in the Philippines offer a very sobering view of what political inequality looks like. Our recent study of political dynasties in the 15th Philippine House of Representatives shows that 70% of Congressmen/women are dynastic. Political dynasties in the Philippine Congress also tend to dominate the major political parties, comprising anywhere from 60-80 percent of each of the major parties. Finally, dynasties win by a larger margin of victory (compared to non-dynasties) in elections; and dynasties are located in areas with much higher poverty and lower human development levels on average.