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Title:For the good of the group: how empathy and self-interest simultaneously condition individual support for economic redistribution
Author(s):Spears, Matthew Allen
Director of Research:Leff, Carol S.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Leff, Carol S.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Wong, Cara J.; Kuklinski, James H.; Bernhard, William T.
Department / Program:Political Science
Discipline:Political Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Support for redistribution
Group identity
Abstract:Why do some people support redistribution from the rich to the poor while others do not? A very large literature centers on this question, and the list of possible answers researchers have offered is both long and, occasionally, contradictory. For instance, while certain scholars posit that a Hobbesian sense of self-interest motivates individuals to oppose redistribution, other researchers argue that empathy for those in need encourage individuals to support systems of welfare redistribution. Building on the work of social and political psychologists, I argue that perceptions of group identity are central to determining when, or among whom, self-interest is of primary concern and when, or among whom, empathy leads to higher support for welfare redistribution. Using a variety of existing national and cross-national surveys and a set of original, small-n survey experiments, I find that among individuals who perceive that they share no commonality with the poor, support for redistribution largely is a function of self-interest. Yet, when individuals perceive that they share much in common with the poor, feelings of empathy are more likely to form and self-interest matters less.
Issue Date:2015-04-01
Rights Information:Copyright 2015 Matthew Spears
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-07-22
Date Deposited:May 2015

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