Revisiting Cross-National Variations in Preference for Redistribution. Attitudes to Inequalities, Social Beliefs, and Welfare Systems

Friday, 3 July 2015: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
CLM.3.04 (Clement House)
Sebastien Lechevalier, EHESS, Paris, France; EHESS, Paris, France
There are significant differences across countries in terms of redistribution by the government and they may correspond to underlying dissimilarities in preference for redistribution across the population of these countries. In particular, previous literature has compared the US and Europe from this viewpoint and proposed several explanations of these differences, from aggregation of individual determinants (e.g. one’s income) to more holistic ones such as shared values at the national level (Alesina & Giulano, 2009; Alesina & La Ferrara, 2004; Alesina et al., 2004).

            The purpose of this paper is to contribute to this literature by testing three hypotheses regarding the dislike of inequalities, social beliefs and social mobility, and by trying to extend the comparison between Europe and the US by including the case of a developed Asian country, Japan. More precisely, by relying on the 2009 issue of the International Social Survey Program, our aim is to explain different preferences for redistribution across the US, France and Japan.

            While there are clear differences between France and the US regarding both the level of unhappiness due to the level of inequalities and preference for redistribution, Japan stands in the middle. Moreover, different social beliefs related to the relative importance of luck and effort in social outcomes have been emphasized by the literature to explain the different patterns in Europe and in the US. However, the rationale behind Japanese patterns is unclear and a purpose of this paper is to provide some explanations that make possible a generalization of previous literature on the topic.