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Journal Articles Social Choice and Welfare Year : 2018

Fairness, social norms and the cultural demand for redistribution


When studying attitudes towards redistribution, surveys show that individuals do care about fairness. They also show that the cultural environment in which people grow up affects their preferences about redistribution. In this article we include these two components of the demand for redistribution in order to develop a mechanism for the cultural transmission of the concern for fairness. The preferences of the young are partially shaped through the observation and imitation of others’ choices. More specifically, observing during childhood how adults have collectively failed to implement fair redistributive policies lowers the concern during adulthood for fairness or the moral cost of not supporting fair taxation. Based on this mechanism, the model exhibits a multiplicity of history-dependent stationary states that may account for the huge and persistent differences in redistribution observed between Europe and the United States. It also explains why immigrants from countries with a preference for greater redistribution continue to support higher redistribution in their destination country.

Dates and versions

hal-03399649 , version 1 (24-10-2021)



Gilles Le Garrec. Fairness, social norms and the cultural demand for redistribution. Social Choice and Welfare, 2018, 50 (2), pp.191 - 212. ⟨10.1007/s00355-017-1080-6⟩. ⟨hal-03399649⟩
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