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Misperceptions of income distributions: Cross-country evidence from a randomized survey experiment

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  • Elisabeth Bublitz

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Abstract

This paper investigates whether the individual misperception of income distributions helps explain why, opposite to Meltzer and Richard (1981), higher initial inequality levels do not correlate positively with redistribution. I conduct a representative survey experiment in Brazil, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, and the United States, providing a personalized information treatment on the income distribution to a randomly chosen subsample. Most respondents misperceive their own position in the income distribution. These biases di_er by country and the true income position. Misperceptions of the median income relate negatively to misperceived income positions, showing evidence for biased reference points. Correcting misperceptions slightly shifts the demand towards less redistribution in Germany and Russia which appears to be driven by respondents with a negative position bias. Apart from Spain and the US, treatment reactions lead to a convergence of the demand for redistribution across countries. The treatment also alters trust levels in government and beliefs about the importance of luck but not equally across bias types.

Suggested Citation

  • Elisabeth Bublitz, 2017. "Misperceptions of income distributions: Cross-country evidence from a randomized survey experiment," LIS Working papers 694, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
  • Handle: RePEc:lis:liswps:694
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alesina, Alberto & Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 2004. "Inequality and happiness: are Europeans and Americans different?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2009-2042, August.
    2. Mounir Karadja & Johanna Mollerstrom & David Seim, 2017. "Richer (and Holier) Than Thou? The Effect of Relative Income Improvements on Demand for Redistribution," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 99(2), pages 201-212, May.
    3. Philipp Lergetporer & Guido Schwerdt & Katharina Werner & Ludger Woessmann, 2016. "Information and Preferences for Public Spending: Evidence from Representative Survey Experiments," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2016-07, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
    4. Ilyana Kuziemko & Michael I. Norton & Emmanuel Saez & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2015. "How Elastic Are Preferences for Redistribution? Evidence from Randomized Survey Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(4), pages 1478-1508, April.
    5. 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.
    6. Kimmo Eriksson & Brent Simpson, 2012. "What do Americans know about inequality? It depends on how you ask them," Judgment and Decision Making, Society for Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 7(6), pages 741-745, November.
    7. Kuhn, Andreas, 2015. "The Individual Perception of Wage Inequality: A Measurement Framework and Some Empirical Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 9579, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    8. Engelhardt, Carina & Wagener, Andreas, 2014. "Biased Perceptions of Income Inequality and Redistribution," VfS Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100395, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
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    1. Misperceptions of income distributions: Cross-country evidence from a randomized survey experiment
      by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2018-04-09 18:39:12

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    Cited by:

    1. Gimpelson, V. & Chernina, E., 2020. "How we perceive our place in income distribution and how the perceptions deviate from reality," Journal of the New Economic Association, New Economic Association, vol. 46(2), pages 30-56.
    2. Ricardo Perez-Truglia, 2020. "The Effects of Income Transparency on Well-Being: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(4), pages 1019-1054, April.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Income distribution; biased perceptions; inequality; survey experiment;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H20 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - General

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