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Preferences for redistribution: an empirical analysis over 33 countries


People’s preferences for state intervention in social policies vary. A cross-section analysis on individual-level survey data is conducted here over 33 democracies to highlight the link between the economic position of agents and their specific demand for redistribution. Controlling for a number of factors usually found to affect individual preferences in the literature, this article focuses on the role played by the occupational status of individuals in shaping their preferences. Individual labour market position, as well as family income, is shown to outweigh all other factors shaping preferences for redistribution. The odds of a manager to oppose redistributive policies are increased by 40%, as compared to those of an office clerk, for instance. Moreover, individuals’ perception of personal mobility plays an important role: the odds of holding more positive attitudes towards redistribution are up by 32% for people who think they experienced a downward mobility within the last ten years. Evidence is also found for the fact that the political regime may have a long lasting effect on collective preferences: living in former-East Germany doubles the odds of holding positive attitudes towards redistribution, as compared to living in West Germany. Finally, the research presented here identifies which socio-political groups may be formed on the basis of their preferences for redistribution.

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Correspondence to Elvire Guillaud.

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Guillaud, E. Preferences for redistribution: an empirical analysis over 33 countries. J Econ Inequal 11, 57–78 (2013).

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  • Occupation
  • Preferences for redistribution
  • Social mobility

JEL Classification

  • D31
  • D72
  • H23