Mind the Income Gaps? Experimental Evidence of Information’s Lasting Effect on Redistributive Preferences

  • Bastian BeckerEmail author


Individuals reject economic inequality if they believe it to result from unequal opportunities. This paper argues income gaps between groups determined at birth, based on sex, race, or family background, can serve people as an indication of unequal opportunities. Findings from a survey experiment show Americans underestimate these gaps. When confronted with accurate information, participants correct their perceptions and adjust redistributive preferences. A follow-up survey finds these effects to last for over one year. In sum, this paper contributes to political economy scholarship that links individual preferences to objective characteristics of the income distribution. Focusing on income gaps offers new ways to explore the political consequences of structural economic change.


Inequality Redistribution Distributive justice Experiment 



Bastian Becker has received a research grant from the Central European University (Grant No. 2014/2015/1/RSS)

Compliance With Ethical Standards

Conflicts of interest

No conflict of interest is declared.

Human Participants

All procedures performed involving human participants were approved by the Central European University’s Ethical Research Committee.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Center on Inequality and Social Policy (SOCIUM)University of BremenBremenGermany

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