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Subjective percepcions of income distribution and preferences for redistributive policies


Research Institutions:

Centro de Estudios Distributivos, Laborales y Sociales, Universidad
Nacional de La Plata, Argentina,

CEALCI - Centro de estudios sobre América Latina y la Cooperación

Fundación CAROLINA, Spain



Do individuals perceive that they are poorer or richer than they actually are? Does this potential bias affect attitudes towards redistributive policies? Could information about their real position in the income distribution modify these attitudes? The project will study the relationship between the subjective evaluation of an individual’s position in the income distribution, her real position in the distribution, and her attitudes towards redistributive policy. While previous studies have concentrated either on the presence of biases in subjective evaluations of relative well-being, or
on inequality and preferences for redistribution, the contribution of this project is to bridge the two issues by studying the relationship between these biases and attitudes towards redistribution.
The issues addressed by the project are especially relevant for policy formulation in middle income countries with high inequality and high levels of tax evasion like Argentina. The research will shed light on the origins of the “vicious cycle where the rich oppose the expansion of the welfare state (as they bear most of its burden without receiving much back), which in turn maintains long-term inequalities” (Breceda, Rigolini and Saavedra, 2008), and thus on the possibilities to achieve a stronger welfare state.
A further contribution is to determine whether correcting these biases by providing information about the individual’s actual position in the income distribution might impact on attitudes towards redistribution. This issue will be dealt with by means of “household survey questionnaire experiments”, an original methodology developed for this project. Starting from a
basic questionnaire, interviewees are randomly selected into a series of “treatments”, which consist of the provision by the interviewer of information on their actual position in the income distribution and other related distributional facts. The random allocation to these different
“treatments” allows the identification of which types of information can affect attitudes towards redistributive policies.

Download preliminary Report (Spanish version)
Download Working Paper (English version)

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