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Group Loyalty and the Taste for Redistribution

  • Erzo F.P. Luttmer

Interpersonal preferences - preferences that depend on the characteristics of others - are typically hard to infer from observable individual behavior. As an alternative approach, this paper uses survey data to investigate interpersonal preferences. The General Social Survey contains self-reported preferences for welfare spending, which I validate with voting behavior on cuts in welfare benefits. Using this preference measure, I show that preferences for income redistribution are not only determined by financial self-interest but also by interpersonal preferences. These interpersonal preferences are characterized by a negative exposure effect - individuals decrease their support for welfare if there are more welfare recipients in their area - and racial group loyalty - individuals increase their support for welfare spending if a larger fraction of welfare recipients in their area belongs to their racial group. My results hold when areas are defined as states, metropolitan areas or census tracts and are robust.

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Paper provided by Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago in its series Working Papers with number 9902.

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Date of creation: Jan 1999
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Handle: RePEc:har:wpaper:9902
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  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. Ribar, D.C. & Wilhelm, M.O., 1992. "Welfare Generosity: The Importance of Administrative Efficiency, Community Values and Genuine Benevolence," Papers 11-92-2, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
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