Other-Regarding Preferences and Redistributive Politics

87 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2022

See all articles by Ernst Fehr

Ernst Fehr

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Thomas Epper

University of Lille

Julien Senn

University of Zurich - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2022


Increasing inequality and associated egalitarian sentiments have again put redistribution on the political agenda. Other-regarding preferences may also affect support for redistribution, but knowledge about their distribution in the broader population and how they are associated with political support for redistributive policies is still scarce. In this paper, we take advantage of Swiss direct democracy, where people voted several times on strongly redistributive policies in national plebiscites, to study the link between other-regarding preferences and support for redistribution in a broad sample of the Swiss population. We document that inequality aversion and altruistic concerns play a quantitatively large positive role in the support for redistribution, in particular for more affluent individuals. In addition, previously identified key motives underlying opposition to redistribution – such as the belief that effort is an important driver of individual success – play no role for selfish individuals but are highly relevant for altruistic and egalitarian individuals. Finally, while inequality averse individuals display strong support for policies that primarily aim at reducing the incomes of the rich, altruistic individuals are considerably less supportive of such policies. Thus, knowledge about the fundamental properties and the distribution of individuals’ other-regarding preferences also provides a deeper understanding about who is likely to support specific redistributive policies.

Keywords: social preferences, altruism, inequality aversion, preference heterogeneity, demand for redistribution

JEL Classification: D310, D720, H230, H240

Suggested Citation

Fehr, Ernst and Epper, Thomas and Senn, Julien, Other-Regarding Preferences and Redistributive Politics (2022). CESifo Working Paper No. 9545, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4024770 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4024770

Ernst Fehr (Contact Author)

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )

Blümlisalpstrasse 10
Zuerich, 8006
+41 1 634 3709 (Phone)
+41 1 634 4907 (Fax)

Thomas Epper

University of Lille ( email )

Cité Scientifique
Villeneuve-d'Ascq, 59650

Julien Senn

University of Zurich - Department of Economics ( email )


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