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The moral consequences of economic growth: An empirical investigation

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  • Davis, Lewis S.
  • Knauss, Matthew

Abstract

In The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, Benjamin Friedman argues that growth reduces the strength of interpersonal income comparisons, and thereby tends to increases the desire for pro-social legislation, a position he supports by drawing on the historical records of the US and several Western European countries. We test this hypothesis using a variable from the World Values Survey that measures an individual's taste for government responsibility, which we interpret as a measure of the demand for egalitarian social policy. Our results provide support for a modified version of Friedman's hypothesis. In particular, we find that the taste for government responsibility is positively related to the recent change in the growth rate and negatively related to the change in income inequality. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for attempts to further the egalitarian social goals.

Suggested Citation

  • Davis, Lewis S. & Knauss, Matthew, 2013. "The moral consequences of economic growth: An empirical investigation," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 43-50.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:42:y:2013:i:c:p:43-50 DOI: 10.1016/j.socec.2012.11.007
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Lewis S. Davis & Sumit S. Deole, 2015. "Immigration, Attitudes and the Rise of the Political Right: The Role of Cultural and Economic Concerns over Immigration," CESifo Working Paper Series 5680, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Growth; Morality; Welfare state; Redistribution; Preferences; Values;

    JEL classification:

    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development

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