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Preferences for Redistribution in the Land of Opportunities

  • Alberto Alesina
  • Eliana La Ferrara

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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File URL: http://www.economics.harvard.edu/pub/hier/2001/HIER1936.pdf
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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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  1. Alberto Alesina & Reza Baqir & William Easterly, 1999. "Public Goods and Ethnic Divisions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(4), pages 1243-1284.
  2. Alberto Alesina & Dani Rodrik, 1994. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 465-490.
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  6. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2000. "Who wants to redistribute?: The tunnel effect in 1990s Russia," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 87-104, April.
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  19. repec:adr:anecst:y:2001:i:63-64:p:14 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Fields, Gary S. & Ok, Efe A., 1996. "The Meaning and Measurement of Income Mobility," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 349-377, November.
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  30. Fong, Christina, 2001. "Social preferences, self-interest, and the demand for redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 225-246, November.
  31. Giacomo Corneo, 2000. "Inequality and the State: Comparing U.S. and German Preferences," CESifo Working Paper Series 398, CESifo Group Munich.
  32. Alberto Alesina & Edward Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote, 2001. "Why Doesn't the US Have a European-Style Welfare System?," NBER Working Papers 8524, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  33. 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.
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