Preferences for redistribution, as well as the generosities of welfare
states, differ significantly across countries. In this paper, we test
whether there exists a feedback process of the economic regime on
individual preferences. We exploit the "experiment" of German
separation and reunification to establish exogeneity of the economic
system. From 1945 to 1990, East Germans lived under a Communist regime
with heavy state intervention and extensive redistribution. We find
that, after German reunification, East Germans are more in favor of
redistribution and state intervention than West Germans, even after
controlling for economic incentives. This effect is especially strong
for older cohorts, who lived under Communism for a longer time period.
We further find that East Germans’ preferences converge towards those
of West Germans. We calculate that it will take one to two generations
for preferences to converge completely.
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