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Conceptualizations of socio-economic status and preferences for redistribution


Publication date
5 January 2023
Joint Research Centre


The self-interest approach to preferences for redistribution draws upon the idea that socio-economic conditions influence policy preferences via personal interests. Following this principle, a burgeoning interdisciplinary literature has examined the influence of socio-economic status (SES) on redistributive preferences. Yet this body of research is quite fragmented because it includes a plethora of understandings of SES and there is still no consensus on which conceptualization best accounts for variation in these preferences. We fill this gap in the literature through an analysis of the predictive validity of seven conceptualizations of SES: (i) income as a linear measure; (ii) income measured in deciles; (iii) skills specificity; (iv) ESeC schema; (v) Kitchelt-Rehm’s class schema; (vi) risk of unemployment; and (vii) routine task intensity. Using data from the European Social Survey for 24 countries in 2012-2018, we determine the predictive validity of each conceptualization through measures of goodness of fit that prove sensitive to explanatory power and parsimony of the models. The results show that linear income constitutes the conceptualization with highest predictive validity in 14 of the 24 countries. The approaches of the risk of unemployment and skills specificity display lower validity than income but higher than that of the ESeC, Oesch and Kitchelt-Rehm class schemas.


Jaime-Castillo, A. M., Fernandez, J. J.


11 JANUARY 2023
JRC131510_Conceptualizations of socio-economic status and preferences for redistribution