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Preferences for Redistribution and Pensions: What Can We Learn from Experiments?

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  • Tausch Franziska
  • Potters Jan
  • Riedl Arno

    (METEOR)

Abstract

Redistribution is an inevitable feature of collective pension schemes. It is still largely an open question what people‘s preferences are regarding redistribution—both through pensions schemes as well as more generally. It would seem that economists have little to say about this question, as they routinely assume that people are predominantly selfish. Economic experiments have revealed, however, that most people do in fact have redistributional preferences that are not merely inspired by self-interest. This paper reviews this experimental evidence. For that purpose we distinguish between three fundamentally different types of situations. The first deals with distributional preferences behind a veil of ignorance. What type of income distribution do people prefer when they do not know whether they will end up in an advantaged or disadvantaged position? A main result here is that, contrary to what John Rawls suggested, people do not prefer the maximin rule, but rather favor a utilitarian justice concept appended with a safety net for the poorest. Another result is that people are willing to accept income inequalities—as long as these are due to choices for which people can be held accountable. In the second type of situation, individuals make choices in front of the veil of ignorance and know their position. Experiments show that preferences for redistribution are strongly dependent on a person‘s own position. People in a relatively disadvantaged position want more redistribution than those in a relatively advantaged position, which shows that preferences for redistribution are clearly affected by self-interest. Still, even many of those in an advantaged position display a preference forredistribution. This holds, in particular, if inequality is due to chance rather than effort. There are also significant differences in preferences between the genders and between people with different political orientations. Finally, we discuss situations in which income is determined by interdependent rather than individual choices. People are dependent upon the cooperation of others for the achievement of their (income) goals. Experiments show that behavioral factors such as trust and reciprocity play a crucial role, and they also indicate that these factors are strongly affected by the institutional setting. In the closing parts of the paper we discuss whether and how these experimental results speak to the redistribution issues of pensions. For example, do they argue for or against mandatory participation? Should we have less redistribution and more actuarial fairness? How does this depend on the type of redistribution involved?

Suggested Citation

  • Tausch Franziska & Potters Jan & Riedl Arno, 2011. "Preferences for Redistribution and Pensions: What Can We Learn from Experiments?," Research Memorandum 014, Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR).
  • Handle: RePEc:unm:umamet:2011014
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    1. repec:eee:jcecon:v:46:y:2018:i:2:p:457-479 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Elsayyad, May & Konrad, Kai A., 2012. "Fighting multiple tax havens," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(2), pages 295-305.
    3. Cettolin, E. & Riedl, A.M., 2013. "Justice under uncertainty," Research Memorandum 036, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).
    4. Paetzel, Fabian & Sausgruber, Rupert & Traub, Stefan, 2014. "Social preferences and voting on reform: An experimental study," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 36-55.
    5. Anke Gerber & Andreas Nicklisch & Stefan Voigt, 2013. "Strategic Choices for Redistribution and the Veil of Ignorance: Theory and Experimental Evidence," CESifo Working Paper Series 4423, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    public economics ;

    JEL classification:

    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D64 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Altruism; Philanthropy; Intergenerational Transfers
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions

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