Abstract Income inequality has been used empirically to explain the mixed performance of developing countries in attracting FDI. This paper sets up a theoretical model that links the skewness of the income distribution to a host government's willingness to subsidize FDI. Large skewness makes government subsidies less likely because the median income person prefers redistribution. Little skewness, however, does not guarantee FDI. In addition, host governments may switch from positive to no subsidies if a shift in economic variables changes how the policymaker trades off the FDI benefits and income redistribution, thereby offering an alternative to the conventional hold-up story.