Masking Redistribution (or its Absence)

30 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2004

See all articles by Jonathan Baron

Jonathan Baron

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Psychology

Edward J. McCaffery

USC Gould School of Law

Date Written: July 16, 2004


Research has shown that people vary widely in their support or opposition to progressive taxation. We argue here that the perception of progressiveness itself is affected by the nature of the tax system and by the way it is framed, or presented. Experiments conducted over the World-Wide Web and using within-subject design demonstrate that subjects suffer from a range of heuristics and biases in understanding and supporting progressive or redistributive taxation. After reviewing some prior results, we report four new studies. Two of them indicate that people do not sufficiently appreciate the reduction of progressiveness that results from the use of tax deductions to partly reimburse private expenditures. The other two indicate that people do not fully appreciate the reduction in progressiveness that results from cuts in government services.

Suggested Citation

Baron, Jonathan and McCaffery, Edward J., Masking Redistribution (or its Absence) (July 16, 2004). U of Penn, Inst for Law & Econ Research Paper 04-09; USC Law School, Olin Research Paper No. 04-5; and USC CLEO Research Paper No. C04-1. Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan Baron (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Psychology ( email )

3815 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6196
United States
215-898-6918 (Phone)


Edward J. McCaffery

USC Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-740-2567 (Phone)
213-740-5502 (Fax)

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