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An Experimental Study of the POUM Hypothesis

  • Checchi, Daniele

    ()

    (University of Milan)

  • Filippin, Antonio

    ()

    (University of Milan)

The “prospect of upward mobility” (POUM) hypothesis formalised by Benabou and Ok (2001a) finds explicit assumptions under which some individuals that are poorer than the average optimally choose to oppose redistribution policies. The underlying intuition is that these individuals rationally expect to be richer than average in the future. This result holds provided the mobility process is concave in expectations, redistribution policies are expected to last for a sufficiently long period and individuals are not too risk averse. This paper tests the POUM hypothesis by means of a within subjects experiment where the concavity of the mobility process, the degree of social mobility, the knowledge of personal income and the degree of inequality are used as treatments. Other determinants of the demand for redistribution, such as risk aversion and inequality aversion are (partially) controlled for via either the experiment design or the information collected during the experiment. We find that the POUM hypothesis holds under alternative specifications, even when we control for individual fixed effects.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 912.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2003
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Research on Economic Inequality, 2004, 11, 15-136
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp912
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  1. Corneo, Giacomo & Grüner, Hans Peter, 2001. "Individual Preferences for Political Redistribution," CEPR Discussion Papers 2694, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Thomas Piketty, 1994. "Social Mobility and Redistributive Politics," Working papers 94-15, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  3. Benabou, R. & Ok, E.A., 1998. "Social Mobility and the Demand for Redistribution: The POUM Hypothesis," Working Papers 98-23, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  4. Roland Bénabou & Efe A. Ok, 2000. "Mobility as Progressivity: Ranking Income Processes According to Equality of Opportunity," Working Papers 150, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics..
  5. Alesina, Alberto F & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2002. "Preferences for Redistribution in the Land of Opportunities," CEPR Discussion Papers 3155, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Hans Peter Gruner & Giacomo Corneo, 2000. "Social Limits to Redistribution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1491-1507, December.
  7. Cowell, Frank A. & Schokkaert, Erik, 2001. "Risk perceptions and distributional judgments," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(4-6), pages 941-952, May.
  8. 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.
  9. Ignacio Palacios-Huerta & Roberto Serrano & Oscar Volig, 2001. "Rejecting Small Gambles under Expected Utility: a Comment on Rabin," Working Papers 2001-05, Brown University, Department of Economics.
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