Why has economic inequality risen dramatically over the past few decades even in democracies where individuals could vote for more redistribution? We experimentally study how individuals respond to inequality and find that subjects generally take from richer and give to poorer individuals. However, this behavior removes only a fraction of inequality. Moreover, individuals who give to those who are poorer are generally not the same individuals who also take from others who are richer. These results offer an explanation for the absence of policy interventions that could effectively counter rising differences in wealth: Voters are divided on how to react to inequality in ways that make it difficult to build majority coalitions willing to back political redistribution.
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