Skip to main content

Preferences for redistribution: an empirical analysis over 33 countries

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Alesina, A., Angeletos, G.-M.: Fairness and redistribution. Am. Econ. Rev. 95(4), 960–980 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Alesina, A., Fuchs-Schündeln, N.: Good bye Lenin (or not?): the effect of Communism on people’s preferences. Am. Econ. Rev. 97(4), 1507–1528 (2007)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Alesina, A., Giuliano P.: Preferences for redistribution. NBER working paper 14825 (2009)

  4. Alesina, A., Glaeser E.: Fighting Poverty in the US and Europe: a World of Difference. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2004)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  5. Alesina, A., Glaeser, E., Sacerdote, B.: Why doesn’t the United States have a European-style welfare state? Brookings Pap. Econ. Act. 2001(2), 187–254 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Alesina, A., La Ferrara, E.: Preferences for redistribution in the land of opportunities. J. Public Econ. 89(5–6), 897–931 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Algan, Y., Cahuc, P.: Civic attitudes and the design of labor market institutions: which countries can implement the Danish flexicurity model? IZA discussion paper 1928 (2006)

  8. Amable, B.: The differentiation of social demands in Europe. The social basis of the European models of capitalism. Soc. Indic. Res. 89(3), 391–426 (2009)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Benabou, R., Ok, E.A.: Social mobility and the demand for redistribution: the POUM hypothesis. Q. J. Econ. 116(2), 447–487 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Benabou, R., Tirole, J.: Belief in a just world and redistributive politics. Q. J. Econ. 121(2), 699–746 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Buchanan, J.M., Tullock, G.: The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor Paperbacks (1962)

    Google Scholar 

  12. Castanheira M., Galasso, V., Carcillo, S., Nicoletti, G., Perotti, E., Tsyganok, L.: How to gain political support for reforms. In: Boeri, T., Castanheira, M., Faini, R., Galasso, V. (eds.) Structural Reforms Without Prejudice. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2006)

    Google Scholar 

  13. Clark, A.E.: Inequality-aversion and income mobility: a direct test. DELTA working paper 2003-11 (2003)

  14. Clark, A.E., Lelkes, O.: Deliver us from evil: religion as insurance. PSE working paper 2005-43 (2005)

  15. Corneo, G., Grüner, H.P.: Social limits to redistribution. Am. Econ. Rev. 90(5), 1491–1507 (2000)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Corneo, G., Grüner, H.P.: Individual preferences for political redistribution. J. Public Econ. 83(1), 83–107 (2002)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Cusack, T., Iversen, T., Rehm, P.: Risks at work: the demand and supply sides of government redistribution. Oxf. Rev. Econ. Policy 22(3), 365–389 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Estevez-Abe, M., Iversen, T., Soskice, D.: Social protection and the formation of skills: a reinterpretation of the welfare state. In: Hall, P., Soskice, D. (eds.) Varieties of Capitalism. The Institutional Foundations of Comparative Advantage. Oxford University Press, Oxford (2001)

    Google Scholar 

  19. Fong, C.: Social preferences, self-interest, and the demand for redistribution. J. Public Econ. 82(2), 225–246 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Fu, V.K.: Estimating generalized ordered logit models. Stata Tech. Bull. 8, 160–164 (1998)

    Google Scholar 

  21. Guillaud, E.: Preferences for redistribution: a European comparative analysis. PSE working paper 2008-41 (2008)

  22. Hirschman, A.O.: The changing tolerance for income inequality in the course of economic development. With a mathematical appendix by M. Rothschild. Q. J. Econ. 87(4), 544–566 (1973)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. ILO (International Labour Organisation): ISCO-88: International standard classification of occupations. Geneva, ILO (1990)

  24. Iversen, T., Soskice, D.: An asset theory of social policy preferences. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 95(4), 875–893 (2001)

    Google Scholar 

  25. Long, J.S., Freese, J.: Regression Models for Categorical Dependent Variables Using Stata, Second Edition. Stata Press, College Station, Texas. http://www.indiana.edu/jslsoc/spost.htm (2006)

  26. Meltzer, A., Richard, S.: A rational theory of the size of government. J. Polit. Econ. 89(5), 914–927 (1981)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Moene, K.O., Wallerstein, M.: Inequality, social insurance and redistribution. Am. Polit. Sci. Rev. 95(4), 859–874 (2001)

    Google Scholar 

  28. Olson, M.: The Logic of Collective Action. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA (1965)

    Google Scholar 

  29. Pagano, M., Volpin, P.: The political economy of finance. Oxf. Rev. Econ. Policy 17(4), 502–519 (2001)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Pagano, M., Volpin, P.: The political economy of corporate governance. Am. Econ. Rev. 95(4), 1005–1030 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Piketty, T.: Social mobility and redistributive politics. Q. J. Econ. 110(3), 551–584 (1995)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Piketty, T.: Self-fulfilling beliefs about social status. J. Public Econ. 70(1), 115–132 (1998)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Piketty, T.: Attitudes toward income inequality in France: do people really disagree? CEPREMAP working paper 9918 (1999)

  34. Ravallion, M., Lokshin, M.: Who wants to redistribute? The tunnel effect in 1990s Russia. J. Public Econ. 76(1), 87–104 (2000)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Rehm, P.: Citizen support for the welfare state: determinants of preferences for income redistribution. WZB discussion paper SP II 2005-02 (2005)

  36. Roemer, J.E., Van der Straeten, K.: Xenophobia and the size of the public sector in France: a politico-economic analysis. J. Econ. 86(2), 95–144 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Roemer, J.E., Van der Straeten, K.: The political economy of xenophobia and distribution: the case of Denmark. Scand. J. Econ. 108(2), 251–277 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Scheve, K., Stasavage, D.: Religion and preferences for social insurance. Q. J. Polit. Sci. 1(3), 255–286 (2006)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Senik, C.: What can we learn from subjective data? The case of income and well-being. J. Econ. Surv. 19(1), 43–63 (2005)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Suhrcke, M.: Preferences for inequality: East vs. West. Innocenti working paper 89, Florence: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre (2001)

  41. Williams, R.: Generalized ordered logit/partial proportional odds models for ordinal dependent variables. Stata J. 6(1), 58–82 (2006)

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Elvire Guillaud.

Electronic Supplementary Material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

(PDF 97.5 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Guillaud, E. Preferences for redistribution: an empirical analysis over 33 countries. J Econ Inequal 11, 57–78 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10888-011-9205-0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10888-011-9205-0

Keywords

  • Occupation
  • Preferences for redistribution
  • Social mobility

JEL Classification

  • D31
  • D72
  • H23