GINI DP 48: Public Opinion on Income Inequality in 20 Democracies: The Enduring Impact of Social Class and Economic Inequality
Utilizing International Social Survey Program (ISSP) data, we explore the relationship between economic inequality—both at the individual-level and the national-level—and attitudes toward income inequality in 20 capitalist societies. Our findings suggest that experience of economic inequality has an enduring effect on attitudes. Specifically, respondents’ own social class and their father’s social class are both significantly related to attitudes, with working class individuals tending to be more egalitarian in their views than others. Still, our findings also suggest that attitudes are unrelated to experience of social mobility per se. Tests for random effects of class origin and destination further demonstrate that class has a similar effect across societies. In terms of contextual influences, we demonstrate that as income inequality rises, people of all classes tend to have less egalitarian views. In contrast to suggestions of previous research, however, we find no evidence that economic development or equality of opportunity influence public opinion on what is considered fair income differences.
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