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Rising inequality could explain tepid support for redistribution

THE PUBLICATION six years ago of Thomas Pikettys Capital in the Twenty-First Centuryan 800-page tome that has since sold over 2.5m copieshelped reveal the huge increase in inequality in the West since the 1970s. So why has support for welfare spending to counteract it remained so stable over that period? In theory, support for redistribution should increase with the gap between rich and poor, as the envy of the have-nots is stoked. But polls in America and Britain suggest virtually no growth in support for redistribution since 1980.A new paper* due to be presented on April 7th at the Economic History Societys annual conference suggests an interesting answer. Rather than the gap between rich and poor being the main influence on attitudes to welfare, the degree of inequality within the upper classes might matter more.
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