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Redistributive preferences: Why actual income is ultimately more important than perceived income


Weisstanner, David; Armingeon, Klaus (2022). Redistributive preferences: Why actual income is ultimately more important than perceived income. Journal of European Social Policy, 32(2):135-147.

Abstract

An emerging consensus claims that ‘subjective’ (mis)perceptions of income inequality better explain redistributive preferences than actual ‘objective’ conditions. In this article, we critically re-assess this view. We compare perceived and actual income positions as predictors for preferences for redistribution. We argue that perceived income is partly endogenous to actual income and its effect on preferences conditional on ideology. Using an original survey experiment from Switzerland, we show that the predictive power of perceived income is lower compared to actual income. Perceived income is only associated with redistribution preferences among centre-right respondents, but not among left-wing respondents. Furthermore, providing respondents with corrective information about their true position in the income hierarchy has no effect on redistribution preferences. These findings go against the new consensus about the superior explanatory power of subjective perceptions of income inequality. We argue instead that absolute objective conditions should be at the centre of explaining redistributive preferences.

Abstract

An emerging consensus claims that ‘subjective’ (mis)perceptions of income inequality better explain redistributive preferences than actual ‘objective’ conditions. In this article, we critically re-assess this view. We compare perceived and actual income positions as predictors for preferences for redistribution. We argue that perceived income is partly endogenous to actual income and its effect on preferences conditional on ideology. Using an original survey experiment from Switzerland, we show that the predictive power of perceived income is lower compared to actual income. Perceived income is only associated with redistribution preferences among centre-right respondents, but not among left-wing respondents. Furthermore, providing respondents with corrective information about their true position in the income hierarchy has no effect on redistribution preferences. These findings go against the new consensus about the superior explanatory power of subjective perceptions of income inequality. We argue instead that absolute objective conditions should be at the centre of explaining redistributive preferences.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Political Science
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > General Social Sciences
Physical Sciences > Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
Uncontrolled Keywords:Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law, General Social Sciences
Language:English
Date:1 May 2022
Deposited On:02 Feb 2022 12:37
Last Modified:26 Jun 2024 01:51
Publisher:Sage Publications
ISSN:0958-9287
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/09589287211037912
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)