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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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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8267.

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Date of creation: May 2001
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Publication status: published as Alesina, Alberto and Eliana La Ferrara. "Preferences For Redistribution In The Land Of Opportunities," Journal of Public Economics, 2005, v89(5-6,Jun), 897-931.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8267
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