New publication in The Economic Journal
New publication in The Economic Journal, “The Meritocratic Origin of Egalitarian Behaviour” (forthcoming) by Alexander W. Cappelen, Johanna Mollerstrom, Bjørn-Atle Reme, and Bertil Tungodden.
We report from a study of how uncertainty about whether a given inequality reflects performance or luck shapes distributive behaviour. We show theoretically that the reaction to uncertainty depends on how people trade off the probability of making a mistake when redistributing, and the size of this mistake. We show experimentally that uncertainty causes a strong egalitarian pull among a majority of meritocratic individuals. The theoretical framework and the experimental results are supported in general population surveys in the US and Norway. Our findings suggest that how people handle uncertainty about the source of inequality may be of great importance for understanding distributive conflicts in society.