Thursday, July 23, 2009

The 'cultural' roots of attitudes toward redistribution

The June 6th Economist carried a summary of a study exploring whether "cultural" factors influence opinions about redistribution. The authors of the paper, Erzo Luttmer and Monica Singhal, looked at data from the European Social Survey "on the attitudes of over 6,000 immigrants who have moved from one of 32 countries in the survey to another." Their bottom-line finding, in the Economist's words, is that "views about redistribution in an immigrant's home country are a strong predictor of his own opinions," even if he (or she) left the home country twenty years before. So, for example, a Pole or Romanian living in Britain probably would be more likely to favor more redistributive policies than a native Briton of roughly the same educational and income level. The effect also holds for children of immigrants, though not as strongly. This is interesting, although judging from the summary the paper does not address what precisely it is about one national "culture" that makes it more (or less) pro-redistribution than another.

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