Experience of Social Mobility and Support for Redistribution: Beating the Odds or Blaming the System?
76 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2021 Last revised: 8 Jan 2022
How does the experience of social mobility affect people’s distributive preferences? Using cross-country survey data and a survey experiment, I examine the effects of experienced social mobility on support for redistribution. The results indicate an asymmetric relationship - experiencing downward mobility increases support for redistribution while experiencing upward mobility does not affect distributive preferences. In line with a common attribution bias, the self-serving bias, those with negative mobility experiences ‘blame the system’ and extrapolate from their negative experience onto society at large, which increases their demand for redistribution. Conversely, those who experienced positive mobility believe they ‘beat the odds’ and do not extrapolate from their experience onto perceptions of societal mobility, leading to no less support for redistribution. This finding suggests significant implications at the aggregate and a potential demand-side explanation for the Great Gatsby Curve: As overall absolute mobility decreases (increases), ceteris paribus, demand for redistribution also decreases (increases).
Keywords: social mobility, Redistribution, attribution bias, self-serving bias
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