Discussion Paper Details

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Title: Preferences for Redistribution in the Land of Opportunities

Author(s): Alberto F Alesina and Eliana La Ferrara

Publication Date: January 2002

Keyword(s): POUM, redistribution and social mobility

Programme Area(s): Public Economics

Abstract: The poor favour redistribution and the rich oppose it, but that is not all. Social mobility may make some of today?s poor into tomorrow?s rich and since redistributive policies do not change often, individual preferences for redistribution should depend on the extent and the nature of social mobility. We estimate the determinants of preferences for redistribution using individual level data from the US, and we find that individual support for redistribution is negatively affected by social mobility. Furthermore, the impact of mobility on attitudes towards redistribution is affected by individual perceptions of fairness in the mobility process. People who believe that the American society offers equal opportunities to all are more averse to redistribution in the face of increased mobility. On the other hand, those who see the social rat race as a biased process do not see social mobility as an alternative to redistributive policies.

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Bibliographic Reference

Alesina, A and La Ferrara, E. 2002. 'Preferences for Redistribution in the Land of Opportunities'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.