Social mobility and the demand for redistribution: The POUM hypothesis

Roland Benabou, Efe A. Ok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

571 Scopus citations


This paper examines the often stated idea that the poor do not support high levels of redistribution because of the hope that they, or their offspring, may make it up the income ladder. This "prospect of upward mobility" (POUM) hypothesis is shown to be fully compatible with rational expectations, and fundamentally linked to concavity in the mobility process. A steady-state majority could even be simultaneously poorer than average in terms of current income, and richer than average in terms of expected future incomes. A first empirical assessment suggests, on the other hand, that in recent U. S. data the POUM effect is probably dominated by the demand for social insurance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-487
Number of pages41
JournalQuarterly Journal of Economics
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics


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