DP7501 | The Political Economy of Redistribution in the U.S. in the Aftermath of World War II and the Delayed Impacts of the Great Depression - Evidence and Theory

Publication Date

18/10/2009

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Abstract

The paper presents evidence of an upward ratchet in transfers and taxes in the U.S. around World-War II. This finding is explained within a political-economy framework involving an executive who sets defense spending and the median voter in the population who interacts with a (richer) agenda setter in Congress in setting redistribution. While the setter managed to cap redistribution in the pre-war period, the War itself pushed up the status-quo tax burden, raising the bargaining power of the median voter as defense spending receded. This raised the equilibrium level of redistribution. The higher share of post-War transfers may thus be interpreted as a delayed fulfilment of a, not fully satisfied, popular demand for redistribution inherited from the Great Depression.