For Richer and for Poorer: Income, Perceptions of Inequality and Support for Redistribution


In this paper we focus on perceptions of (or beliefs about) macro inequality and we argue that perceptions matter differently to the rich and the poor. We hypothesise that material and other-regarding factors make inequality perceptions push the redistribution preferences of the poor in a similar direction (i.e., more perceived inequality, more support for redistribution). For the rich, we argue that material self-interest and other-regarding concerns push redistribution preferences in opposing directions. Our paper attempts a degree of methodological triangulation by developing both an observational and an experimental analysis supporting our theoretical claims. First we show how perceptions matter for the rich and for the poor in an analysis of ISSP data (1999, 2009 and 2019). We then develop an online survey experiment (fielded in the UK in the summer of 2022) with a randomized information treatment designed to shift perceptions of macro inequality.