Salience of History and the Preference for Redistribution
51 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2016 Last revised: 11 Feb 2016
Date Written: January 18, 2016
Citizens’ preference for redistribution determines many key political economy outcomes. In this project, we aim to understand how do ancestors’ redistributive experiences affect the descendants’ preference for redistribution. We conduct a survey experiment under the historical backdrop of the wealth equalization movements during the Communist Revolution in China (1947-1956). We remind a random subset of respondents of these movements that their ancestors went through. We find that on average, making the historical experiences salient turns the respondents significantly and persistently more favorable towards government redistribution. We show that the treatment effect is not driven by changes in apolitical preferences, beliefs of current inequality, or knowledge of the movements. Salience in history influences the mental framework when respondents think of redistribution: respondents are reminded of the specific family experiences during past redistribution, and they are triggered to project similar redistribution in the future.
Keywords: Preference for Redistribution, Salience, Persistence, China
JEL Classification: D31, D63, N35, N45, P26, P32, P48
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