Intergenerational Mobility and Support for Redistribution​

Authors: Alberto Alesina, Edoardo Teso and Stefanie Stantcheva

Publication: American Economic Review 108 (2): 521-554 [also NBER Working Paper 23027], 2018

Abstract: Using new cross-country survey and experimental data, we investigate how beliefs about intergenerational mobility affect preferences for redistribution in France, Italy, Sweden, the U.K., and the U.S.. Americans are more optimistic than Europeans about social mobility. Our randomized treatment shows pessimistic information about mobility and increases support for redistribution, mostly for “equality of opportunity” policies. We find a strong political polarization. Left-wing respondents are more pessimistic about mobility, their preferences for redistribution are correlated with their mobility perceptions, and they support more redistribution after seeing pessimistic information. None of these apply to right-wing respondents, possibly because they see the government as a “problem” and not as the “solution.”