The Wealth Gap in Fairness Preferences: Evidence from America’s Top 5%

43 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2019 Last revised: 25 Apr 2023

See all articles by Alain Cohn

Alain Cohn

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Information

Lasse J. Jessen

University of Kiel - Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences

Marko Klasnja

New York University

Paul Smeets

University of Amsterdam

Date Written: December 21, 2022

Abstract

We survey a large and diverse sample of the top 5% of the income and wealth distribution
in the U.S. to study whether and why the wealthy favor less government redistribution than
the general population. Three results stand out: (1) wealthy Americans have distinct
fairness preferences as they are more willing to accept inequalities than the general public,
(2) first-generation wealthy (i.e., those who experienced upward social mobility) are
especially inequality-accepting, while individuals born into wealth have fairness
preferences close to those of the general population; (3) the wealth gap in fairness
preferences is predictive of greater opposition to redistribution among the wealthy, which
translates into more conservative voting behavior. These new facts expand our
understanding of why the rich oppose government redistribution.

Keywords: redistribution, social preferences, experimental economics, inequality

Suggested Citation

Cohn, Alain and Jessen, Lasse J. and Klasnja, Marko and Smeets, Paul, The Wealth Gap in Fairness Preferences: Evidence from America’s Top 5% (December 21, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3395213 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3395213

Alain Cohn

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - School of Information ( email )

304 West Hall
550 East University
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1092
United States

Lasse J. Jessen

University of Kiel - Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences ( email )

Kiel
Germany

Marko Klasnja

New York University ( email )

715 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://files.nyu.edu/mk3296/public/index.html

Paul Smeets (Contact Author)

University of Amsterdam ( email )

Plantage Muidergracht 12
Amsterdam, 1018TV
Netherlands

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