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date: 19 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter documents a sharp reversal in electoral participation between the North and the South of Italy after the 1912 enfranchisement which extended voting rights from a limited élite to (almost) all adult males. When voting was restricted to the élite, electoral turnout was higher in the South but falls significantly below that in the North after the enfranchisement. This gap has never been bridged over the following century and participation remains lower in the South despite the enrichment of democratic institutions and extension of voting rights to women during the post-war democratic republic. This pattern is consistent with a simple theoretical framework in which individuals' voting in political elections is affected by private benefits and civic duty. Only elites can grab private benefits from participation in politics, and civic culture differs across communities. Extension of voting rights to non-elites results in a significant transfer of power to their political organizations only among populations with a high sense of civic duties. Together with the gap in participation between North and South our findings suggest that democratization can benefit non-elites only when the latter have already a high sense of civic capital and is unlikely to induce norms of civic behavior.

Keywords: democracy, culture, civic capital, institutions formation

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