Can information about inequality and social mobility change preferences for redistribution? Evidence from randomized controlled trials in 11 high and middle-income countries.

Vol: 
1/2018
Author name: 
Hoy, C
Mager, F
Year: 
2018
Month: 
January
Abstract: 

Using new cross-country survey and experimental data, we investigate if it is possible to increase people’s support for the national government to address inequality through redistribution by providing them with information about inequality and social mobility in their country. We test this by conducting randomized control trials with over 50,000 online survey participants in 11 countries that make up over 30% of the global population and produce more than 40% of world GDP. Survey respondents were randomly allocated to receive either information about inequality and social mobility in their country, information about their position in the national income distribution or no information (control group). This is the first study to test the effect of providing different types of information about inequality and social mobility in the same field experiment and to include multiple middle income countries. Our key findings are as follows. Firstly, attitudes towards inequality are elastic to information in all countries but the effect varies in direction and by type of information. Whereas preferences for redistribution are only elastic to information in some countries and in the United States both types of information lowered support for redistribution. Secondly, in middle income countries, information about people’s position in the national income distribution repeatedly reduces their concern about inequality regardless of whether they over- or underestimate their place, which is inconsistent with existing theories. Finally, in high-income countries, information about inequality and social mobility generally only affects the attitudes and/or preferences for redistribution of people who would not vote for one of the two major political parties in their country.

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