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Preferences for Redistribution: The Roles of Relative Income and Social Mobility
Initial registration date
July 16, 2020
July 16, 2020 3:29 PM EDT
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University of Mannheim
Other Primary Investigator(s)
University of Hohenheim
Additional Trial Information
Understanding how citizens form their preferences for redistribution is crucial for policy makers in order to implement appropriate measures to counteract inequality. As inequality in the United States has been growing in the past decades and in particular in the light of the current COVID-19 crisis, this is a highly relevant question. We investigate two determinants of preferences for redistribution: relative income and perception of social mobility. We do this by using an online survey experiment within a representative sample of US citizens. We experimentally change i) the participant’s relative income, i.e. her position in the income distribution, and ii) her perception about the degree of social mobility. Our novel methodology allows us to not only identify the willingness of a taxpayer to redistribute own income between herself and others (selfish motive), but also her preferences over how income is allocated among all persons in the income distribution (fairness motive).
Rostam-Afschar, Davud and Jasmin Vietz. 2020. "Preferences for Redistribution: The Roles of Relative Income and Social Mobility." AEA RCT Registry. July 16.
We conduct an online survey experiment in which we vary participants relative income position. In addition, we inform people about social mobility in their state of residence.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date
Primary Outcomes (end points)
i) tax liabilities,
ii) tax rates,
iii) attitudes towards minorities
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
We construct the same measures of demand for redistribution for each of the treatment arms.
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
i) misperception w.r.t social mobility
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
We elicit participants beliefs about the degree of social mobility in their state of residence and compare this with the degree of social mobility estimated by Chetty et al. (2017) to construct a measure for misperception w.r.t. social mobility.
The online survey experiment consists of two parts: In the first part, participants face three redistribution decisions that only differ in the participant’s own relative position in the income distribution. In the second part of the experiment, we provide half of the participants with information on the degree of social mobility in the state the participant lives in. Under this new set of information, participants re-take the redistribution decisions from part one. This experimental design allows us to study the within as well as the between participant variation in preferences for redistribution.
Experimental Design Details
We generate a randomized sequences of integers using atmospheric noise on a computer. The realization indicates the relative position in the income distribution, which is assiged to all individuals in the first round. In the following rounds, the sequence is alternated by decrementing, i.e. if position 3 had been assigned in round 1, in round 2 position 2 is assigned. Decrements to position 0 are appended as position 3.
Was the treatment clustered?
Sample size: planned number of clusters
The Treatments are not clustered. See below for the number of observed individuals.
Sample size: planned number of observations
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
750 individuals control, 750 individuals treated.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)