Ivan Petrúšek, Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences:
Distributive justice beliefs and support for income redistribution in Europe
Ivan is currently working on a paper together with our colleague Aleš Kudrnáč, and is a doctoral candidate at the Charles University, Prague and a junior researcher at the Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences. His research focuses on political participation (generational effects on voter turnout and electoral volatility in post-communist countries), attitudes towards economic inequalities, and income redistribution (in the Czech Republic and Europe).
Political theory and political philosophy formulate several distributive justice principles according to which a fair society should be organized. Individual people may have different personal beliefs about the importance of these principles. The particular principle(s) individuals ascribe to will determine their attitudes towards particular economic measures and policies. Concerning income redistribution attitudes, two distributive principles are essential. Firstly, the idea of equality posits that a society is fair when economic outcomes (i.e. income and wealth) are equally distributed among society members. Secondly, the equity principle suggests that a fair society distributes economic outcomes among society members proportionally to their individual input/effort. Therefore, it is expected that people ascribing to the equality principle will be supporters of income redistribution (as it leads to a more equal distribution of disposable incomes). People preferring the equity principle should be tolerant of stratified disposable incomes, which reflect the individual effort.
This research aims to study how these two distributive justice norms impact attitudes towards income redistribution in Europe. Firstly, this working paper studies which of these two distributive justice norms is a stronger correlate of pro-redistributive attitudes. Secondly, I analyze whether and how the effect of distributive justice norms is moderated by individual income. Thirdly, I study whether these norms' importance with respect to support for income redistribution is the same across European countries and which contextual factors may help explain cross-country differences.
This work in progress employs European Social Survey data from Justice and fairness module (round 9). While controlling for several socioeconomic status variables, the results demonstrate that the equality principle is a powerful predictor of pro-redistributive attitudes. Individuals who believe in the equality principle ceteris paribus support redistribution much more than individuals who oppose this principle. The role of the equality principle is much more crucial than that of the equity principle. Both distributive justice norms are strongly interacted with income. While high-income individuals ascribing to the equality principle tend to support income redistribution strongly, the opposite is the case for high-income individuals ascribing to the equity principle. The two-level model with a cross-level interaction suggests that existing inequalities of disposable incomes may explain part of the observed cross-country variation. In countries with low to moderate income inequalities, the role of the equality principle is much more important than in high-inequality countries.
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