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Leaky Bucket in the Real World: Estimating Inequality Aversion Using Survey Data

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  • Jukka Pirttilä
  • Roope Uusitalo

Abstract

Existing evidence of inequality aversion relies on data from class-room experiments where subjects face hypothetical questions. This paper estimates the magnitude of inequality aversion using representative survey data, with questions related to the real-economy situations the respondents face. The results reveal that the magnitude of inequality aversion can be measured in a meaningful way using survey data, but the estimates depend dramatically on the framing of the question. No matter how measured, the revealed inequality aversion predicts opinions on a wide range of questions related to the welfare state, such as the level of taxation, tax progressivity and the structure of unemployment benefits.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2026.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2026

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Keywords: inequality aversion; social welfare functions; welfare state;

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  1. Tito Boeri & Axel Börsch-Supan & Guido Tabellini, 2001. "Would you like to shrink the welfare state? A survey of European citizens," Economic Policy, CEPR & CES & MSH, vol. 16(32), pages 7-50, 04.
  2. Tuomala, Matti, 1990. "Optimal Income Tax and Redistribution," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198286059, September.
  3. Christiansen, Vidar & Jansen, Eilev S., 1978. "Implicit social preferences in the Norwegian system of indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 217-245, October.
  4. Corneo, Giacomo & Grüner, Hans Peter, 2001. "Individual Preferences for Political Redistribution," CEPR Discussion Papers 2694, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  5. Alberto Alesina & George-Marios Angeletos, 2004. "Fairness and Redistribution," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000283, UCLA Department of Economics.
  6. Ahmad, Ehtisham & Stern, Nicholas, 1984. "The theory of reform and indian indirect taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 259-298, December.
  7. Fredrik Carlsson & Dinky Daruvala & Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2005. "Are People Inequality-Averse, or Just Risk-Averse?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 72(3), pages 375-396, 08.
  8. Engelmann,Dirk & Strobel,Martin, 2002. "Inequality Aversion, Efficiency, and Maximin Preferences in Simple Distribution Experiments," Research Memorandum 015, Maastricht University, Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
  9. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Barsky, Robert B, et al, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-79, May.
  11. Yoram Kroll & Liema Davidovitz, 2003. "Inequality Aversion versus Risk Aversion," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 70(277), pages 19-29, February.
  12. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
  13. Amiel, Yoram & Creedy, John & Hurn, Stan, 1999. " Measuring Attitudes towards Inequality," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 101(1), pages 83-96, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Schnellenbach, Jan, 2012. "The economics of taxing net wealth: A survey of the issues," Freiburg Discussion Papers on Constitutional Economics 12/5, Walter Eucken Institut e.V..
  2. Gaston, Noel & Rajaguru, Gulasekaran, 2013. "International migration and the welfare state revisited," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 90-101.
  3. Aristei, David & Perugini, Cristiano, 2010. "Preferences for redistribution and inequality in well-being across Europe," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 176-195, March.
  4. Yamamura, Eiji, 2011. "Effect of social capital on income distribution preferences: comparison of neighborhood externality between high- and low-income households," MPRA Paper 32557, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Alexandru Cojocaru, 2011. "Inequality and well-being in transition economies: A non-experimental test of inequality aversion," Working Papers 238, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
  6. Glenn Sheriff & Kelly B. Maguire, 2013. "Ranking Distributions of Environmental Outcomes Across Population Groups," NCEE Working Paper Series 201304, National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, revised Aug 2013.
  7. Rafael Salas & Juan Rodríguez, 2013. "Popular support for social evaluation functions," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 40(4), pages 985-1014, April.

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