Intergenerational Mobility and Preferences for Redistribution

May 2017
Alberto Alesina, Stefanie Stantcheva, Edoardo Teso

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 mobility, and too optimistic relative to actual mobility. Our randomized treatment shows respondents pessimistic information about mobility and increases support for redistribution. A strong political polarization exists: 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 of their negative views of government.