How does inequality affect individuals’ civic engagement? Though a growing body of multidisciplinary literature has started to address this question, empirical results vary considerably and explanations about what underlies this relationship remain fragmentary.

In this new article in the Socio-Economic Review, Joris Schröder & Michaela Neumayr conduct a systematic literature review to (a) provide a synopsis of empirical findings and (b) synthesize theoretical explanations underlying this relationship. Reviewing 70 studies, they find that higher inequality is most often negatively related to civic engagement, and that this relation seems to be moderated by individual factors, such as income (more on the moderated effect in this recent study).

In addition, they map the proposed theoretical explanations into five key approaches (see Figure 2 below). For each of these approaches, they trace the underlying mechanisms at both the societal and the individual level, and provide a conceptual framework that can be tested in future empirical studies.

The open access article is available here: