Food Comes First, Then Morals: Redistribution Preferences, Altruism and Group Heterogeneity in Western Europe
200/2014 David Rueda
Altruism is an important omitted variable in much of the Political Economy literature. While material self-interest is the base of most approaches to redistribution (first affecting preferences and then politics and policy), there is a paucity of research on inequality aversion. I propose that other-regarding concerns influence redistribution preferences and that: (1) they matter most to those in less material need and (2) they are conditional on the identity of the poor. Altruism is a luxury good most relevant to the rich, and it is most influential when the recipients of benefits are similar to those financing them. Using data from the European Social Survey from 2002 to 2010, I will show that group homogeneity magnifies (or limits) the importance of altruism for the rich. In making these distinctions between the poor and the rich, the arguments in this paper challenge some influential approaches to the politics of inequality.
The Journal of Politics