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Preferences for inequality: East vs. West

Marc Suhrcke

No 150, HWWA Discussion Papers from Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWA)

Abstract: Do preferences for income inequality differ systematically between the post-socialist countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Western established market economies? This paper analyses 1999 data from a large international survey to address this question. In particular, we examine whether attitudes to inequality differ between East and West even after the „conventional“ determinants of attitudes are controlled for. Results suggest that this is indeed the case. A decade after the breakdown of communism, people in transition countries are indeed significantly more „egalitarian“ than those living in the West, in the sense that they are less willing to tolerate existing income inequalities, even after the actual level of income inequality and other determinants of attitudes are taken into account. These results do not seem to be driven by a recent change in attitudes owing to a rapid rise in inequality during transition, but rather appear to constitute an attitudinal legacy carried over from socialism. This is very likely to have important implications for the political support of reform policy, in particular for the political feasibility of future welfare state reforms in these countries.

Keywords: Inequality; transition countries; attitudes (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: P5 D63 D30 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2001
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