The Persistent Effect of Language on Preference for Income Redistribution: Evidence from a Natural Experiment
Is there any long-term factor that shapes individual preference for income redistribution and corresponding economic or political behavior? I document the persistent effect of language structure, specifically word order freedom (WoF), on preference for redistribution. WoF refers to the extent to which word order can be changed without affecting the original meaning. In this article, I develop two formal models to show how languages with more flexibility in word order foster a consciousness of equality and encourage people to be more risk-averse. Empirically, using two general social surveys, I find that people speaking a language with greater WoF are more likely to purchase insurance and support to reduce the income gap. Furthermore, I investigate a natural experiment traced back to the Viking age. By using Scandinavian settlements as an instrumental variable, I reveal the causal relationship between language and the variation of human political attitudes and behaviors.
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