Lauren Prather

Department of Political Science

Fighting Poverty at Home and Abroad: Explaining Attitudes Towards Redistribution


Why do individuals support income redistribution? This question has motivated research across many different social science literatures, but has largely been confined to the study of support for domestic welfare programs. In a world in which economic interactions are increasingly globalized however, it is surprising that relatively little attention has been paid to how individuals think about international inequality and foreign redistribution. My dissertation addresses this gap in the literature by examining whether national borders are barriers to support for income redistribution and how the determinants of support for redistribution vary across the domestic and international contexts. To answer these questions, I use experiments embedded in nationally representative surveys of Americans. I randomize the nationality of the recipients of redistribution and examine a range of causal mechanisms. The results of these studies demonstrate that Americans are significantly less supportive of a program that targets foreign recipients than one that targets domestic ones. Belief in the morality of government action is the primary mechanism behind the effect of nationality on support for redistribution, however attitudes about the need and deservingness of recipients as well as opportunity costs of the program also contribute to the effect.