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U-M expert’s fairness model aims to boost understanding of politics of income redistribution


How popular is Robin Hood, anyway? With rising global income inequality, Charlotte Cavaillé asks why society isn’t doing more to redistribute income.

Cavaillé, assistant professor of public policy at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy, challenges the assumptions about how we think about inequality-reducing policies.

“There are important distinctions between policies that affect how much people earn, like taxes or salary caps, and those that use pooled resources to cover high-risk individuals irrespective of their contributions,” she said.

Cavaillé, who examines the dynamics of popular attitudes toward redistributive social policies at a time of rising inequality, high fiscal stress and high levels of immigration, broke down the politics of redistribution in a recent episode of “Scope Conditions,” a comparative politics podcast.

To understand why rising inequality does not equate to support for redistribution policies, Cavaillé said we must draw on behavioral economics to understand “the type of glasses that we wear to interpret the world.”

Cavaillé finds in addition to the classical economic assumption that people are fundamentally self-interested income maximizers, people also have an extremely strong sense of fairness.In the context of redistribution, that leads her to two questions: “How fair is it for some to make more money than […]

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