The Catalan Syndrome? Revisiting the Relationship Between Income and Support for Independence in Catalonia

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

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The Catalan Syndrome? Revisiting the Relationship Between Income and Support for Independence in Catalonia


  • Jordi Muñoz Department of Political Science, Constitutional Law and Philosophy of Law, University of Barcelona, Spain


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Abstract:  The surge in support for independence in Catalonia (Spain) has received much political, journalistic, as well as academic attention. A popular account of the Catalan case stresses the allegation that motives relating to fiscal selfishness are behind the independence movement. The evidence presented in support of this argument is the positive correlation between income and support for independence. Some scholars, such as Thomas Piketty, even talk about a “Catalan syndrome,” according to which support for independence can ultimately be explained by fiscal selfishness and the prospect of creating a sort of tax haven in Catalonia. As prominent as this argument is, in this article I show that it rests on weak theoretical and empirical grounds. In order to do so, I reassess the existing evidence, using a more nuanced empirical strategy that allows for non-linear relations to emerge and controls for potential confounders. Then, I also present new evidence based on recently published census-tract level fiscal data, merged with election results. Finally, I spell out the mechanisms and observable implications of the “Catalan syndrome” argument and show that fiscal selfishness is not an important driver of the Catalan independence movement.

Keywords:  Catalonia; fiscal preferences; income; independence; Piketty; secessionism

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/pag.v9i4.4617


© Jordi Muñoz. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.