Growing Up in a Recession: Beliefs and the Macroeconomy
45 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2009 Last revised: 14 May 2021
Date Written: September 2009
Does the historical macroeconomic environment affect preferences for redistribution? We find that individuals who experienced a recession when young believe that success in life depends more on luck than effort, support more government redistribution, and tend to vote for left-wing parties. The effect of recessions on beliefs is long-lasting. We support our findings with evidence from three different datasets. First, we identify the effect of recessions on beliefs exploiting time and regional variation in macroeconomic conditions using data from the 1972–2010 General Social Survey. Our specifications control for nonlinear time-period, life-cycle, and cohort effects, as well as a host of background variables. Second, we rely on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of the High School Class of 1972 to corroborate the age-period-cohort specification and look at heterogeneous effects of experiencing a recession during early adulthood. Third, using data from the World Value Survey, we confirm our findings with a sample of 37 countries whose citizens experienced macroeconomic disasters at different points in history.
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