NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Support for Redistribution in an Age of Rising Inequality: New Stylized Facts and Some Tentative Explanations

Vivekinan Ashok, Ilyana Kuziemko, Ebonya Washington

NBER Working Paper No. 21529
Issued in September 2015
NBER Program(s):   AG   PE   POL

Despite the large increases in economic inequality since 1970, American survey respondents exhibit no increase in support for redistribution, in contrast to the predictions from standard theories of redistributive preferences. We replicate these results but further demonstrate substantial heterogeneity by demographic groups. In particular, the two groups who have most moved against income redistribution are the elderly and African-Americans. We find little evidence that these subgroup trends are explained by relative economic gains or growing cultural conservatism, two common explanations. We further show that the elderly trend is uniquely American, at least relative to other developed countries with comparable survey data. While we are unable to provide definitive evidence on the cause of these two groups' declining redistributive support, we offer additional correlations which may offer fruitful directions for future research on the topic. One story consistent with the data on elderly trends is that older Americans worry that redistribution will come at their expense, in particular via cuts to Medicare. We find that the elderly have grown increasingly opposed to government provision of health insurance and that controlling for this tendency explains about 40% of their declining support for redistribution. For blacks, controlling for their declining support of race-targeted aid explains nearly 45% of their differential decline in redistributive preferences (raising the question of why support for race-targeted aid has fallen during a period when black economic catch-up to whites has stalled).

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.

Information about Free Papers

You should expect a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.

E-mail:

The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21529

Published: Vivekinan Ashok & Ilyana Kuziemko & Ebonya Washington, 2016. "Support for Redistribution in an Age of Rising Inequality: New Stylized Facts and Some Tentative Explanations," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, vol 2015(1), pages 367-433.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Nordhaus w21547 Are We Approaching an Economic Singularity? Information Technology and the Future of Economic Growth
Mukand and Rodrik w21540 The Political Economy of Liberal Democracy
Epple, Romano, and Urquiola w21523 School Vouchers: A Survey of the Economics Literature
Curtis, Lugauer, and Mark w21555 Demographics and Aggregate Household Saving in Japan, China, and India
Eichengreen, Park, and Shin w21556 The Global Productivity Slump: Common and Country-Specific Factors
 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us