Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
This paper explores how values about distributive justice vary with individual income and country-level inequality. The most prominent model of this relationship, the Meltzer-Richard model, predicts that higher inequality should make the rich more averse and the poor more supportive of redistribution. However, most empirical studies have found the opposite pattern. I try to adjudicate between two prominent explanations in the literature, altruism versus inequality-induced fear of crime of rich individuals. Since the latter hypothesis postulates that the rich only support redistribution for instrumental reasons, we should find a different result if we ask them more abstract questions about distributive justice. Using data from the International Social Survey Program, I investigate this question employing multilevel modeling. Because I find the same pattern than for the more instrumental questions about redistribution, I conclude that altruism is an important factor driving preferences for redistribution.