Understanding the Public's Attitudes towards Redistribution through Taxation
AbstractThis paper explores the public's expressed attitudes towards redistribution, then addresses three important gaps in the literature on redistribution. First, studies of support for redistribution have used data focused on desires for transfers from the rich to the poor or to the poor in general, but redistributive polices may also benefit the middle class. Second, experimental research has shown that general views about redistribution may differ from concrete judgments about specific situations-yet much of the existing research uses responses to abstract questions. Finally, there is fundamental uncertainty as to what the public actually means when it suggests preferred distributions of the tax burden-are they expressing pure, ideal preferences, or combining these with their own views of the disincentive effects of higher tax rates? We use data from two nationally representative surveys on taxation and fairness as well as an experiment to address these issues. We find that Americans have some interest in redistribution to both the middle class and the poor. While demand for redistribution to the poor is influenced by many factors (including measures of altruism, political ideology and values) demand for redistribution to the middle class appears to be driven by self-interest and knowledge of the tax system. We find the determinants of demand to be similar under both abstract and concrete question forms. Finally, the experimental results suggest that not only does the public not include incentive effects into their expressions for desired progressivity; but that they do not believe they should be included-in other words, the public separates judgments of progressivity from judgments of economic efficiency.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Tulane University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 1005.
Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2010
Date of revision:
survey data; incentives; redistribution;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
- H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2010-10-16 (All new papers)
- NEP-LTV-2010-10-16 (Unemployment, Inequality & Poverty)
- NEP-PBE-2010-10-16 (Public Economics)
- NEP-POL-2010-10-16 (Positive Political Economics)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Bernasconi, Michele, 2006. "Redistributive taxation in democracies: Evidence on people's satisfaction," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 809-837, December.
- Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2009. "How important is rank to individual perception of economic standing? A within-community analysis," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 225-248, September.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Keith Finlay).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.