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Automation and the ‘American Dream’: How Will Redistributive Preferences Evolve as Work is Automated?

Wednesday 17 February 2021, 1.00PM to 2.00 pm

Speaker(s): Konstantinos Matakos (KCL)

Host: Paulo Santos Monteiro

Abstract: As growth in automation increasingly challenges the `American Dream’, will Americans become more accepting of redistributive policies? We inform survey experiment respondents that automation will increase inequality and that luck or decisions made by elites (rather than individual effort) will influence who wins and who loses out. We find that the beliefs and policy perceptions promoted by the `American Dream’ are relatively immutable and preferences for redistributive policies increase only where baseline support is sufficiently high and relatively unpolarized along partisan lines. However, leveraging the labor market shock caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and employing a state-of-the-art re-centred shift-share instrument to establish causality, we show that shock exposure interacts with our informational treatments to increase preferences for redistributive policies. The increase in preferences extends to less conventional redistributive policies (e.g., UBI) and Republicans, who are motivated by ego-tropic concerns. The interaction acts on preferences by heightening respondents' perceived vulnerability to an automation-induced labor market shock and shifting core beliefs, while redirecting anti-elite sentiment away from experts and towards the rich and powerful.


Location: ZOOM (details to follow)

Admission: All welcome