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Preferences for Redistribution in the Land of Opportunities

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  • Alberto Alesina
  • Eliana La Ferrara

Abstract

The poor favor redistribution and the rich oppose it, but that is not all. Social mobility may make some of today’s poor into tomorrow’s rich and since redistributive policies do not change often, individual preferences for redistribution should depend on the extent and the nature of social mobility. We estimate the determinants of preferences for redistribution using individual level data from the US, and we find that individual support for redistribution is negatively affected by social mobility. Furthermore, the impact of mobility on attitudes towards redistribution is affected by individual perceptions of fairness in the mobility process. People who believe that the American society offers equal opportunities to all are more averse to redistribution in the face of increased mobility. On the other hand, those who see the social rat race as a biased process do not see social mobility as an alternative to redistributive policies.

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Paper provided by Harvard - Institute of Economic Research in its series Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers with number 1936.

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Date of creation: 2001
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Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:1936

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