The Distributional Preferences of Americans

39 Pages Posted: 26 May 2014

See all articles by Raymond J. Fisman

Raymond J. Fisman

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Boston University

Pamela Jakiela

University of Maryland

Shachar Kariv

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics

Date Written: May 2014

Abstract

We measure the distributional preferences of a large, diverse sample of Americans by embedding modified dictator games that vary the relative price of redistribution in the American Life Panel. Subjects' choices are generally consistent with maximizing a (social) utility function. We decompose distributional preferences into two distinct components - fair-mindedness (tradeoffs between oneself and others) and equality-efficiency tradeoffs - by estimating constant elasticity of substitution utility functions at the individual level. Approximately equal numbers of Americans have equality-focused and efficiency-focused distributional preferences. After controlling for individual characteristics, our experimental measures of equality-efficiency tradeoffs predict the political decisions of our subjects.

Suggested Citation

Fisman, Raymond and Jakiela, Pamela and Kariv, Shachar, The Distributional Preferences of Americans (May 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w20145, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2441776

Raymond Fisman (Contact Author)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
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Boston University ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
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Pamela Jakiela

University of Maryland ( email )

College Park
College Park, MD 20742
United States

Shachar Kariv

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

549 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States

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