Fighting Poverty at Home and Abroad: Explaining Attitudes Towards Redistribution

38 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2013

See all articles by Lauren Prather

Lauren Prather

Stanford University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2013


Why do individuals support redistribution? This paper broadens the scope of the literature on redistribution to include the international context. It investigates whether national borders are barriers to public support for income redistribution, and if so, why. To begin to answer these questions, I fielded two surveys to nationally-representative samples of Americans in February and July of 2013. By experimentally manipulating the nationality of the recipients of a redistributive program, while keeping other program details constant, I am able to isolate the effect of nationality on public support. I find that Americans are significantly less supportive of a program that targets recipients in other countries. While Americans view the foreign poor as needier and more deserving than the domestic poor, they believe the U.S. government has a greater moral obligation to help domestic recipients. Moreover, they view the foreign program as less effective and believe the opportunity costs of funding the foreign program are higher. These mechanisms help explain why Americans support domestic redistribution at higher rates than foreign redistribution.

Keywords: welfare, development, foreign aid, public opinion, assistance, poverty, inequality, redistribution

Suggested Citation

Prather, Lauren, Fighting Poverty at Home and Abroad: Explaining Attitudes Towards Redistribution (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper, American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting, Available at SSRN:

Lauren Prather (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

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