How Elastic Are Preferences for Redistribution?

Ilyana Kuziemko, Michael Norton, Emmanuel Saez, & Stefanie Stantcheva have a new NBER paper on inequality and preferences for redistribution:

“This paper analyzes the effects of information about inequality and taxes on preferences for redistribution using randomized online surveys on Amazon Mechanical Turk (mTurk). About 5,000 subjects were randomized into treatments providing interactive information on U.S. income inequality, the link between top income tax rates and growth, and the estate tax. Both control and treatment groups were then asked their views on inequality, government, taxes and transfers. We obtain four main results.

  • First, the informational treatment has very large effects on whether respondents view inequality as an important problem.
  • Second, we find significant but quantitatively small effects of the treatment on views about policy and redistribution. Support for taxing the rich increases slightly. By contrast, support for transfers to the poor does not, especially among those with lower incomes and education.
  • Third, the treatment also decreases trust in government, potentially mitigating respondents’ willingness to translate concerns about inequality into government action.
  • Fourth, we find that informing subjects that the estate tax hits only the very richest families has an extremely large positive effect on estate tax support, including willingness to write to one’s U.S. senator about the issue.

We explore different methods to lower attrition in online survey platforms and show our main results are robust across methods. Using a small follow-up survey one month later, our results are shown to persist over time. We also compare mTurk with other survey vendors and provide many suggestions to future researchers considering this platform. ”



About ozidar

I'm an Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a Faculty Research Fellow at National Bureau of Economic Research. You can follow me on twitter @omzidar.
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