The Journal of Economic Inequality

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 345–367 | Cite as

Political preferences for redistribution in Sweden

  • Spencer BastaniEmail author
  • Jacob Lundberg
Open Access


We examine preferences for redistribution inherent in Swedish tax policy during 1971–2012 using the inverse optimal tax approach. The income distribution is carefully characterized with the help of administrative register data, and we employ behavioral elasticities reflecting the perceived distortionary effects of taxation. The revealed social welfare weights are high for non-workers, small for low-income earners, and hump-shaped around the median. At the top, they are always negative, especially so during the high-tax years of the 1970s and ’80s. The weights on non-workers increased sharply in the 1970s, fell drastically in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and have since then increased.


Redistribution Social welfare weights Optimal taxation Inverse optimal taxation Social preferences 



We would like to thank the editor, Olivier Bargain, as well as Ingvild Almås, Luca Micheletto, Jukka Pirrtilä, Håkan Selin, Thomas Sjögren, Daniel Waldenström and anonymous referees for very helpful comments. Financial support from the Jan Wallander and Tom Hedelius Foundation is gratefully acknowledged.

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© The Author(s) 2017

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and StatisticsLinnaeus UniversityVäxjöSweden
  2. 2.Linnaeus University Center for Discrimination and Integration StudiesVäxjöSweden
  3. 3.Uppsala Center for Fiscal StudiesUppsalaSweden
  4. 4.Uppsala Center for Labor StudiesUppsalaSweden
  5. 5.CESifoMunichGermany
  6. 6.Ratio InstituteStockholmSweden

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