New paper in PNAS
Ingvild Almås, Alexander W. Cappelen, Erik Ø. Sørensen, and Bertil Tungodden have published a new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America (PNAS): “Global evidence on the selfish rich inequality hypothesis”.
We report on the first study of whether people believe that the rich are richer than the poor because they have been more selfish in life, using novel data from more than 26,000 individuals in 60 countries. The findings show a strong belief in the selfish rich inequality hypothesis at the global level; in the majority of countries, the mode is to strongly agree with it. However, we also identify important between and within-country variation. We find that the belief in selfish rich inequality is much stronger in countries with extensive corruption and weak institutions, and less strong among people who are higher in the income distribution in their society.
Finally, we show that the belief in selfish rich inequality is predictive of people’s policy views on inequality and redistribution: it is significantly positively associated with agreeing that inequality in their country is unfair, and it is significantly positively associated with agreeing that the government should aim to reduce inequality. These relationships are highly significant both across and within countries, and robust to including country-level or individual-level controls and using Lasso-selected regressors. Thus, the data provide compelling evidence of people believing that the rich are richer because they have been more selfish in life, and perceiving selfish behavior as creating unfair inequality and justifying equalizing policies.