Unequal views of inequality: Cross-national support for redistribution 1985–2011

Tom VanHeuvelen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This research examines public views on government responsibility to reduce income inequality, support for redistribution. While individual-level correlates of support for redistribution are relatively well understood, many questions remain at the country-level. Therefore, I examine how country-level characteristics affect aggregate support for redistribution. I test explanations of aggregate support using a unique dataset combining 18 waves of the International Social Survey Programme and European Social Survey. Results from mixed-effects logistic regression and fixed-effects linear regression models show two primary and contrasting effects. States that reduce inequality through bundles of tax and transfer policies are rewarded with more supportive publics. In contrast, economic development has a seemingly equivalent and dampening effect on public support. Importantly, the effect of economic development grows at higher levels of development, potentially overwhelming the amplifying effect of state redistribution. My results therefore suggest a fundamental challenge to proponents of egalitarian politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-66
Number of pages24
JournalSocial Science Research
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • Comparative/Historical sociology
  • Political sociology
  • Support for redistribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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