Can Information about Inequality and Social Mobility Change Preferences for Redistribution? Evidence from Randomized Controlled Trials in 12 High and Middle-Income Countries
Franziska Mager (Oxfam GB)
Christopher Hoy (Australian National University)
Paper short abstract:
We investigate if it is possible to increase people's support for the government to address inequality by providing information about inequality and social mobility. We test this through RCTs with over 50,000 online survey participants in 12 countries that make up over 1/3 of the global population.
Paper long abstract:
Using new cross-country survey and experimental data, we investigate if it is possible to increase people's support for the national government to address inequality through redistribution by providing them with information about inequality and social mobility in their country. We test this by conducting randomized control trials with over 50,000 online survey participants in 12 countries that make up over one third of the global population and produce more than 40% of world GDP. Respondents were randomly allocated to receive either information about inequality and social mobility in their country, information about their position in the national income distribution or no information (control group). This is the first study to examine the effect of providing different types of information about inequality in the same field experiment and to include multiple middle income countries. Our key findings are as follows. Firstly, people's concern about inequality is elastic to information in all countries but the effect varies in direction and by type of information, whereas preferences for redistribution are only elastic to information in some countries. Secondly, in the majority of countries we studied, information about people's position in the national income distribution reduces their concern about inequality if they overestimated their position (ie. they were poorer than they thought), which is inconsistent with most existing theories. Finally, in high-income countries, information about inequality and social mobility generally only affects the preferences for redistribution of people who would not vote for one of the two major political parties in their country.
Preferences for redistribution: Experimental evidence