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How Elastic are Preferences for Redistribution? Evidence from Randomized Survey Experiments

  • Kuziemko, Ilyana
  • Norton, Michael I
  • Saez, Emmanuel
  • Stantcheva, Stefanie
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    This paper analyzes the effects of information about inequality and taxes on preferences for redistribution using randomized online surveys on Amazon Mechanical Turk (mTurk). About 5,000 respondents were randomized into treatments providing interactive information on U.S. income inequality, the link between top income tax rates and economic growth, and the estate tax. We find that the informational treatment has very large effects on whether respondents view inequality as an important problem. By contrast, we find quantitatively small effects of the treatment on views about policy and redistribution: support for taxing the rich increases slightly, support for transfers to the poor does not, especially among those with lower incomes and education. An exception is the estate tax---we find that informing respondents that it affects only the very richest families has an extremely large positive effect on estate tax support, even increasing respondents' willingness to write to their U.S. senator about the issue. We also find that the treatment substantially decreases trust in government, potentially mitigating respondents' willingness to translate concerns about inequality into government action. Methodologically, we explore different strategies to lower attrition in online survey platforms and show our main results are robust across methods. A small follow-up survey one month later reveals that our results persist over time. Finally, we compare mTurk with other survey vendors and provide suggestions to future researchers considering this platform.

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    File URL: http://www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=9438
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    Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 9438.

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    Date of creation: Apr 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9438
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    1. Jeffrey B. Liebman & Erzo F.P. Luttmer, 2011. "Would People Behave Differently If They Better Understood Social Security? Evidence From a Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 17287, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Slemrod, Joel, 2006. "The Role of Misconceptions in Support for Regressive Tax Reform," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 59(1), pages 57-75, March.
    3. Emmanuel Saez & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2013. "Generalized Social Marginal Welfare Weights for Optimal Tax Theory," NBER Working Papers 18835, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Erzo F. P. Luttmer & Monica Singhal, 2011. "Culture, Context, and the Taste for Redistribution," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 157-79, February.
    5. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, . "Preferences for Redistribution in the Land of Opportunities," Working Papers 178, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    6. Cruces, Guillermo & Perez-Truglia, Ricardo & Tetaz, Martin, 2013. "Biased perceptions of income distribution and preferences for redistribution: Evidence from a survey experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 100-112.
    7. John Horton & David Rand & Richard Zeckhauser, 2011. "The online laboratory: conducting experiments in a real labor market," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 14(3), pages 399-425, September.
    8. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "Income Inequality In The United States, 1913-1998," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 1-39, February.
    9. Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2001. "Group Loyalty and the Taste for Redistribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(3), pages 500-528, June.
    10. Fong, Christina, 2001. "Social preferences, self-interest, and the demand for redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 225-246, November.
    11. Gabriele Paolacci & Jesse Chandler & Panagiotis G. Ipeirotis, 2010. "Running experiments on Amazon Mechanical Turk," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 5(5), pages 411-419, August.
    12. Raj Chetty & Emmanuel Saez, 2013. "Teaching the Tax Code: Earnings Responses to an Experiment with EITC Recipients," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 1-31, January.
    13. Naoi, Megumi & Kume, Ikuo, 2011. "Explaining Mass Support for Agricultural Protectionism: Evidence from a Survey Experiment During the Global Recession," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(04), pages 771-795, October.
    14. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
    15. La Ferrara, Eliana & Alesina, Alberto, 2005. "Preferences for Redistribution in the Land of Opportunities," Scholarly Articles 4552533, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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