Doctoral thesis
Open access

Exploring the determinants of economic attitudes: income growth, inequality and sectoral affiliation

Number of pages272
Imprimatur date2024
Defense date2024

Throughout this thesis and in four articles, I explore some of the determinants of preferences for redistribution and redistributive social spending. I develop a theoretical framework that puts expected future income at the center of what drives these preferences, and subsequently focus on objective conditions that are likely to affect these expectations. In their own way, each of the four articles touches upon this question of expected future income. Article one does so most explicitly, focusing on the association between past quartile income growth and preferences for redistribution, as well as the association between past quartile income growth and one's mobility prospects within the income distribution. Article two brings in the question of occupational exposure to foreign demand, and argues that a close association with economic sectors that are highly dependent on their ability to export generates concerns over competitiveness. In turn, these concerns affect the way in which individuals think about the link between redistributive policies and their expected future income. In particular, the article explores factors that lead vulnerable individuals exposed to foreign demand to view redistributive social policies primarily as a threat to competitiveness (and therefore to their future employment and income prospects), which in turn leads them to develop anti-redistributive preferences. Article three brings this concept of concerns over competitiveness to the level of Swiss employment zones in order to study the impact of regional export-dependence on the outcome of business-related popular votes. As a premise, the article argues that citizens want their region to thrive economically, and that higher degrees of regional export-dependence make competitiveness-oriented narratives more salient and relevant to them. Finally, article four explores the impact of changes in regional export-dependence on preferences for social spending measured at the individual level. Most importantly, this article shows that individuals do respond to changes in the export-dependence of their region by updating their preferences, and provides evidence that this response follows from sociotropic considerations.

Together, these articles paint a picture of several important determinants of preferences for redistribution and redistributive social spending. Past income growth emerges as an important predictor, and so do exposure to foreign demand and export-dependence, which fuel concerns over competitiveness. Vis-à-vis the vast literature on preferences for redistribution, these articles reassert the importance of `objective conditions' in the formation of preferences, which should not be abandoned in favor of more subjective explanations. Instead, they should encourage us to consider these different explanatory frameworks in a joint manner. Articles two, three and four also speak to the trade exposure literature, and specifically to the debate between the proponents of the `compensation hypothesis' and those that put concerns over competitiveness at the center of what drives preferences for redistributive social policies. My findings, pertaining to European countries and Switzerland, clearly support to the latter hypothesis. Moreover, concerns over competitiveness are found to operate similarly at the individual and regional-level.

  • Preferences for redistribution
  • Income growth
  • Trade exposure
  • Competitiveness
  • Growth models
  • Economic geography
  • European Commission - Unequal Democracies [741538]
Citation (ISO format)
POLTIER, Jérémie Gautier. Exploring the determinants of economic attitudes: income growth, inequality and sectoral affiliation. 2024. doi: 10.13097/archive-ouverte/unige:175622
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Creation03/13/2024 11:46:44 AM
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