Salience of History and the Preference for Redistribution

51 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2016 Last revised: 11 Feb 2016

See all articles by Yuyu Chen

Yuyu Chen

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management

Hui Wang

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management

David Yang

Stanford University - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 18, 2016

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Chen, Yuyu and Wang, Hui and Yang, David, Salience of History and the Preference for Redistribution (January 18, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2717651 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2717651

Yuyu Chen

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management ( email )

Peking University
Beijing, Beijing 100871
China

Hui Wang

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management ( email )

Peking University
Beijing, Beijing 100871
China

David Yang (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States

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