IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/18865.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

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

Author

Listed:
  • Ilyana Kuziemko
  • Michael I. Norton
  • Emmanuel Saez
  • Stefanie Stantcheva

Abstract

We develop online survey experiments to analyze how information about inequality and taxes affects preferences for redistribution. Approximately 4,000 respondents were randomized into treatments providing interactive, customized information on U.S. income inequality, the link between top income tax rates and economic growth, and the estate tax. An additional 6,000 respondents were randomized into follow-up treatments to explore mechanisms underlying the initial results. The treatment has very large effects on whether respondents view inequality as a problem. By contrast, it only slightly moves policy preferences (e.g., top income tax rates and transfer programs). An exception is the estate tax—informing respondents of the small share of decedents who pay it more than doubles support for it and this effect persists in a one-month follow-up. We explore several explanations for our results. Extreme ex-ante misinformation appears to drive the large estate tax results. The small effects for all other policies can be at least partially explained by respondents' low trust in government—indeed, we show that priming people to think negatively about the government substantially reduces support for transfer programs—as well as a disconnect between concerns about social issues and the public policies that aim to address them.

Suggested Citation

  • Ilyana Kuziemko & Michael I. Norton & Emmanuel Saez & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2013. "How Elastic Are Preferences for Redistribution? Evidence from Randomized Survey Experiments," NBER Working Papers 18865, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18865
    Note: PE POL
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w18865.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:107:y:2013:i:01:p:80-103_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Elvire Guillaud, 2013. "Preferences for redistribution: an empirical analysis over 33 countries," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 11(1), pages 57-78, March.
    3. Jeffrey B. Liebman & Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2015. "Would People Behave Differently If They Better Understood Social Security? Evidence from a Field Experiment," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 275-299, February.
    4. Thomas Piketty, 1995. "Social Mobility and Redistributive Politics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(3), pages 551-584.
    5. Slemrod, Joel, 2006. "The Role of Misconceptions in Support for Regressive Tax Reform," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 59(1), pages 57-75, March.
    6. Richard Bernardi, 2006. "Associations between Hofstede’s Cultural Constructs and Social Desirability Response Bias," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 65(1), pages 43-53, April.
    7. Roland Benabou & Efe A. Ok, 2001. "Social Mobility and the Demand for Redistribution: The Poum Hypothesis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 447-487.
    8. Derek Dalton & Marc Ortegren, 2011. "Gender Differences in Ethics Research: The Importance of Controlling for the Social Desirability Response Bias," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 103(1), pages 73-93, September.
    9. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2014. "Optimal Taxation of Top Labor Incomes: A Tale of Three Elasticities," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 230-271, February.
    10. Emmanuel Saez & Stefanie Stantcheva, 2016. "Generalized Social Marginal Welfare Weights for Optimal Tax Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 106(1), pages 24-45, January.
    11. Corneo, Giacomo & Gruner, Hans Peter, 2002. "Individual preferences for political redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 83-107, January.
    12. John Horton & David Rand & Richard Zeckhauser, 2011. "The online laboratory: conducting experiments in a real labor market," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 14(3), pages 399-425, September.
    13. Loef, J. & Antonides, G. & van Raaij, W.F., 2001. "The Effectiveness of Advertising Matching Purchase Motivation," ERIM Report Series Research in Management ERS-2001-65-MKT, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
    14. Luskin, Robert C. & Fishkin, James S. & Jowell, Roger, 2002. "Considered Opinions: Deliberative Polling in Britain," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 32(03), pages 455-487, July.
    15. Alesina, Alberto & La Ferrara, Eliana, 2005. "Preferences for redistribution in the land of opportunities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 897-931, June.
    16. repec:cup:apsrev:v:105:y:2011:i:01:p:135-150_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Gaines, Brian J. & Kuklinski, James H. & Quirk, Paul J., 2007. "The Logic of the Survey Experiment Reexamined," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(01), pages 1-20, December.
    18. Weinzierl, Matthew, 2014. "The promise of positive optimal taxation: normative diversity and a role for equal sacrifice," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 128-142.
    19. 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.
    20. Saez, Emmanuel & Zucman, Gabriel, 2014. "Wealth Inequality in the United States since 1913: Evidence from Capitalized Income Tax Data," CEPR Discussion Papers 10227, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    21. 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.
    22. Hans Peter Gruner & Giacomo Corneo, 2000. "Social Limits to Redistribution," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1491-1507, December.
    23. 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.
    24. Eiji Yamamura, 2014. "Trust in government and its effect on preferences for income redistribution and perceived tax burden," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 71-100, February.
    25. 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.
    26. 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.
    27. Leslie McCall & Lane Kenworthy, 2007. "Inequality, Public Opinion, and Redistribution," LIS Working papers 459, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    28. 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 157-179, February.
    29. Claudia Senik, 2009. "Income Distribution and Subjective Happiness: A Survey," OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers 96, OECD Publishing.
    30. Fujii, Edwin T & Hawley, Clifford B, 1988. "On the Accuracy of Tax Perceptions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(2), pages 344-347, May.
    31. 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 914-927, October.
    32. Fong, Christina, 2001. "Social preferences, self-interest, and the demand for redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 225-246, November.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18865. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.