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Social Mobility and the Demand for Redistribution: The Poum Hypothesis

Roland Benabou and Efe A. Ok
The Quarterly Journal of Economics
Vol. 116, No. 2 (May, 2001), pp. 447-487
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2696470
Page Count: 41
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Social Mobility and the Demand for Redistribution: The Poum Hypothesis
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Abstract

This paper examines the often stated idea that the poor do not support high levels of redistribution because of the hope that they, or their offspring, may make it up the income ladder. This "prospect of upward mobility" (POUM) hypothesis is shown to be fully compatible with rational expectations, and fundamentally linked to concavity in the mobility process. A steady-state majority could even be simultaneously poorer than average in terms of current income, and richer than average in terms of expected future incomes. A first empirical assessment suggests, on the other hand, that in recent U. S. data the POUM effect is probably dominated by the demand for social insurance.

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