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U-M Ross Business + Impact
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Fair Enough? Support for Redistribution in the Age of Inequality

Fair Enough? Support for Redistribution in the Age of Inequality event posterWhat explains the public’s muted response to income inequality? To answer this question, Fair Enough? proposes a new framework for studying attitudes toward redistributive social policies in times of rising inequality. These attitudes, Cavaille argues, are shaped by at least two motives. First, people support policies that increase their own expected income. Second, they support policies that move the status quo closer to what is prescribed by shared norms of fairness. In most circumstances, saying the “fair thing” is easier than reasoning according to one’s own economic interest. But there are important exceptions: when policies have large and certain pocketbook consequences, people take the self-interested position instead of the “fair” one. Combined with a new theory of fairness concerns, this simple framework helps explain puzzling attitudinal trends in post-industrial democracies including a decline in support for redistribution in Great Britain, the erosion of social solidarity in France, and a declining correlation between income and support for redistribution in the United States.