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Preferences for inequality : East vs. West

  • Suhrcke, Marc
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    Do preferences for income inequality differ systematically between the post-socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Western established market economies? This paper analyses 1999 data from a large international survey to address this question. In particular, we examine whether attitudes to inequality differ between East and West even after the ?conventional? determinants of attitudes are controlled for. Results suggest that this is indeed the case. A decade after the breakdown of communism, people in transition countries are indeed significantly more ?egalitarian? than those living in the West, in the sense that they are less willing to tolerate existing income inequalities, even after the actual level of income inequality and other determinants of attitudes are taken into account. These results do not seem to be driven by a recent change in attitudes owing to a rapid rise in inequality during transition, but rather appear to constitute an attitudinal legacy carried over from socialism. This is very likely to have important implications for the political support of reform policy, in particular for the political feasibility of future welfare state reforms in these countries.

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    Paper provided by Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWA) in its series HWWA Discussion Papers with number 150.

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    Date of creation: 2001
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    Handle: RePEc:zbw:hwwadp:26369
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    1. Piketty, Thomas, 1999. "Attitudes toward income inequality in France: Do people really disagree?," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9918, CEPREMAP.
    2. 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.
    3. John Micklewright & John Flemming, 1999. "Income Distribution, Economic Systems and Transition," Papers iopeps99/69, Innocenti Occasional Papers, Economic Policy Series.
    4. Alberto Alesina & Eliana La Ferrara, 2001. "Preferences for Redistribution in the Land of Opportunities," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1936, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    5. Piketty, Thomas, 1995. "Social Mobility and Redistributive Politics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(3), pages 551-84, August.
    6. Alesina, Alberto F & Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 2001. "Inequality and Happiness: Are Europeans and Americans Different?," CEPR Discussion Papers 2877, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Romer, Thomas, 1975. "Individual welfare, majority voting, and the properties of a linear income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 163-185, February.
    8. Marc Suhrcke & Sylke Schnepf & Gerry Redmond, 2002. "Attitudes to Inequality after Ten Years of Transition," Papers inwopa02/21, Innocenti Working Papers.
    9. Delhey, Jan, 1999. "Inequality and attitudes: postcommunism, western capitalism and beyond," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Social Structure and Social Reporting FS III 99-403, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    10. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2000. "Who wants to redistribute?: The tunnel effect in 1990s Russia," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 87-104, April.
    11. Newell, Andrew & Reilly, Barry, 1997. "Rates of Return to Educational Qualifications in the Transitional Economies," Discussion Papers in Economics 03/97, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
    12. Andrew Newell & Barry Reilly, 1999. "Rates of Return to Educational Qualifications in the Transitional Economies," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(1), pages 67-84.
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