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The Libertarian that Demands Redistribution: An Online Experiment on Redistributive Preferences in Contemporary China

Nora Yuqian Chen, Yucheng Huang and Zhexun Fred Mo
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Nora Yuqian Chen: Harvard University [Cambridge]
Yucheng Huang: PSE - Paris School of Economics - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, PJSE - Paris Jourdan Sciences Economiques - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement
Zhexun Fred Mo: PSE - Paris School of Economics - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, PJSE - Paris Jourdan Sciences Economiques - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement

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Abstract: What are the determinants of redistributive preferences where capitalism meets post-socialism? To examine the sources of conflicting preference combinations of tolerating the income gap and demanding redistributive policies in transitional economies as suggested in previous research, we conduct an online experiment with a nationally representative sample of 2,500 Chinese citizens. We find that Chinese citizens exhibit strong support for real-stake inequality-reducing policies and the government's duty to regulate income distribution. Surprisingly, priming the "unmeritocratic component" of the income generating process in either becoming rich or staying poor makes them significantly less supportive of redistributive policies targeted explicitly at taxing the rich and government duties in regulating the income gap. This effect is mainly driven by those who self-reported to have relatively low economic pressure. We conjecture that such "libertarian" fairness views, and the strong demand for government intervention to "redistribute," could both originate from extreme poverty aversion and wealth aspiration. Wealth aspiration drives a desire for property ownership, making it more likely to justify any means in acquiring property; meanwhile, poverty aversion calls for strong government intervention in lifting the poor up. We argue that such a mechanism could be most saliently exemplified in a post-socialist economic regime with sustained high growth rates and high social mobility.

Keywords: Redistribution; Fairness Preferences; Income Inequality; Tax Salience; Social Mobility; Government Duty; Beliefs (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022-03
Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-03496033v2
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