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Income Inequality and Social Preferences for Redistribution and Compensation Differentials

William Kerr ()

No 17701, NBER Working Papers from National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc

Abstract: In cross-sectional studies, countries with greater income inequality typically exhibit less support for government-led redistribution and greater acceptance of wage inequality (e.g., United States versus Western Europe). If individual nations evolve along this pattern, a vicious cycle could form with reduced social concern amplifying primal increases in inequality due to forces like skill-biased technical change. Exploring movements around these long-term levels, however, this study finds mixed evidence regarding the vicious cycle hypothesis. On one hand, larger compensation differentials are accepted as inequality grows. This growth in differentials is of a smaller magnitude than the actual increase in inequality, but it is nonetheless positive and substantial in size. Weighing against this, growth in inequality is met with greater support for government-led redistribution to the poor. These patterns suggest that short-run inequality shocks can be reinforced in the labor market but do not result in weaker political preferences for redistribution.

JEL-codes: D31 D33 D61 D63 D64 D72 H23 H53 I38 J31 R11 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-pol
Date: 2011-12
Note: EFG LS PE POL PR
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Published as Kerr, William R. "Income Inequality and Social Preferences for Redistribution and Compensation Differentials." Journal of Monetary Economics (forthcoming).

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Journal Article: Income inequality and social preferences for redistribution and compensation differentials (2014) Downloads
Working Paper: Income inequality and social preferences for redistribution and compensation differentials (2013) Downloads
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