How Elastic are Preferences for Redistribution? Evidence from Randomized Survey Experiments

77 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2013

See all articles by Ilyana Kuziemko

Ilyana Kuziemko

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit

Emmanuel Saez

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Stefanie Stantcheva

Harvard University - Department of Economics

Date Written: March 2013

Abstract

We develop online survey experiments to analyze how information about inequality and taxes affects preferences for redistribution. Approximately 4,000 respondents were randomized into treatments providing interactive, customized information on U.S. income inequality, the link between top income tax rates and economic growth, and the estate tax. An additional 6,000 respondents were randomized into follow-up treatments to explore mechanisms underlying the initial results. The treatment has very large effects on whether respondents view inequality as a problem. By contrast, it only slightly moves policy preferences (e.g., top income tax rates and transfer programs). An exception is the estate tax—informing respondents of the small share of decedents who pay it more than doubles support for it and this effect persists in a one-month follow-up. We explore several explanations for our results. Extreme ex-ante misinformation appears to drive the large estate tax results. The small effects for all other policies can be at least partially explained by respondents' low trust in government—indeed, we show that priming people to think negatively about the government substantially reduces support for transfer programs—as well as a disconnect between concerns about social issues and the public policies that aim to address them.

Suggested Citation

Kuziemko, Ilyana and Norton, Michael I. and Saez, Emmanuel and Stantcheva, Stefanie, How Elastic are Preferences for Redistribution? Evidence from Randomized Survey Experiments (March 2013). NBER Working Paper No. w18865. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2230755

Ilyana Kuziemko (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Michael I. Norton

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Emmanuel Saez

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

549 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States
510-642-4631 (Phone)
510-642-6615 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Stefanie Stantcheva

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://scholar.harvard.edu/stantcheva/home

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