Tuesday, 2nd March 2021
14:00 - 15:00
How Does the Coverage of Public Services Affect Citizen Tax Morale?
Influential theories in political economy posit that citizens’ willingness to pay tax is linearly increasing in public service provision by governments, sustaining the fiscal contract between citizens and the state. However, it is unclear why citizen tax morale is often high even when there are spatial inequalities in the coverage of and access to public services. I test just how high coverage of public services needs to be in order to sustain high tax morale: does a reduction in the coverage of public services weaken or strengthen citizen tax morale? I propose an online survey experiment that aims to prime respondents’ perceptions of the coverage of an important public service provided by government and measure respondents’ willingness to pay tax. Informational vignettes provide subjects with real-world information about how many U.S. residents have or lack access to the nearest trauma care unit. By selectively providing and withholding information about access from a research statement drawn from a published medical study, I form three treatment groups that receive primes on varying levels of healthcare coverage: near-universal coverage; imperfect coverage; and low coverage and test their effect on respondents’ willingness to pay taxes. Additionally, I present measurement strategies to provide some evidence on possible mechanisms.