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Observing unexpected patterns in cross-national research: blame data, theory, or both? Attitudes towards redistributive taxation in thirty-three countries
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.
2015 (English)In: International Journal of Sociology, ISSN 0020-7659, E-ISSN 1557-9336, Vol. 45, no 4, 327-347 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article examines the relationships between socioeconomic status and attitudes toward redistributive taxation across 33 countries using the complete International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) 2006 data set. We apply a simple rational-choice-inspired homo-economicus hypothesis proposing that those better off in the socioeconomic hierarchy should have less reason to support state-organized economic redistribution compared to those situated at lower levels in the socioeconomic hierarchy. The empirical results demonstrate substantial cross-country variation regarding the correspondence between empirical observations and theoretical expectations. When faced with such tremendous cross-national variation in response patterns, a common strategy among researchers is to question the quality of the data collection procedures for those countries deviating strongly from theoretical expectations. The strategy chosen in this study is, however, different. The main argument is that an observed lack of fit between theory and empirical observations may be rooted in problems related to theory rather than the quality of data collection procedures. Building on previous research, two "cultural distance" hypotheses are formulated, both of which argue that the correspondence between the homo-economicus theory and empirics should indeed vary systematically across countries. The first focuses on the role of the welfare state and the second on the level of economic affluence and associated scientific dominance. Both hypotheses receive considerable empirical support. The relationship between socioeconomic status and support for redistributive taxation is substantially stronger in the wealthy Western welfare states—particularly among those of Northern Europe—than in the poor non-Western countries lacking any institutional design reminiscent of a welfare state.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2015. Vol. 45, no 4, 327-347 p.
Keyword [en]
attitudes, international comparative research, ISSP, latent class analysis, taxation
National Category
Sociology Economics
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-115196DOI: 10.1080/00207659.2015.1098272OAI: diva2:899046
Available from: 2016-01-31 Created: 2016-01-31 Last updated: 2016-03-21Bibliographically approved

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Edlund, Jonas
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