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


  • Jukka Pirttilä
  • Roope Uusitalo


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Jukka Pirttilä & Roope Uusitalo, 2007. "Leaky Bucket in the Real World: Estimating Inequality Aversion Using Survey Data," CESifo Working Paper Series 2026, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2026

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:eee:socmed:v:189:y:2017:i:c:p:1-10 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Tovar Reaños, Miguel Angel & Sommerfeld, Katrin, 2016. "Fuel for inequality: Distributional effects of environmental reforms on private transport," ZEW Discussion Papers 16-090, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    3. Gaston, Noel & Rajaguru, Gulasekaran, 2013. "International migration and the welfare state revisited," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 90-101.
    4. 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..
    5. Antonio Abatemarco, 2016. "Evaluating economic mobility under opportunity egalitarianism," Working Papers 396, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    6. Rafael Salas & Juan Rodríguez, 2013. "Popular support for social evaluation functions," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 40(4), pages 985-1014, April.
    7. Maureen Cropper & Alan Krupnick & William Raich, 2016. "Preferences for Equality in Environmental Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 22644, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Christoph Böhringer & Florian Landis & Miguel Angel Tovar Reaños, 2016. "Cost-effectiveness and Incidence of Renewable Energy Promotion in Germany," Working Papers V-390-16, University of Oldenburg, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2016.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. Benjamin B. Lockwood & Matthew Weinzierl, 2014. "Positive and Normative Judgments Implicit in U.S. Tax Policy, and the Costs of Unequal Growth and Recessions," Harvard Business School Working Papers 14-119, Harvard Business School, revised Oct 2014.
    13. 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.
    14. Cojocaru, Alexandru, 2014. "Fairness and inequality tolerance: Evidence from the Life in Transition Survey," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 590-608.
    15. repec:aen:journl:ej38-si1-bohringer is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Dietrich, Stephan & Malerba, Daniele & Barrientos, Armando & Gassmann, Franziska, 2017. "Rates of return to antipoverty transfers in Uganda," MERIT Working Papers 040, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    17. Matthew Adler & David Anthoff & Valentina Bosetti & Greg Garner & Klaus Keller & Nicolas Treich, 2016. "Priority for the Worse Off and the Social Cost of Carbon," CESifo Working Paper Series 6032, CESifo Group Munich.
    18. repec:eee:resene:v:51:y:2018:i:c:p:28-43 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Buchholz, Wolfgang & Schumacher, Jan, 2010. "Discounting and welfare analysis over time: Choosing the [eta]," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 372-385, September.

    More about this item


    inequality aversion; social welfare functions; welfare state;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement


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