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The Subversive Nature of Inequality: Subjective Inequality Perceptions and Attitudes to Social Inequality

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  • Andreas Kuhn

Abstract

This paper shows that higher levels of perceived wage inequality are associated with a weaker (stronger) belief into meritocratic (non-meritocratic) principles as being important in determining individual wages. This finding is robust to the use of an instrumental-variable estimation strategy which takes the potential issue of reverse causality into account, and it is further corroborated using various complementary measures of individuals’ perception of the chances and risks associated with an unequal distribution of economic resources, such as their perception of the chances of upward mobility. I finally show that those individuals perceiving a high level of wage inequality also tend to be more supportive of redistributive policies and progressive taxation, and that they tend to favor the political left, suggesting a feedback effect of inequality perceptions into the political-economic sphere. Taken together, these findings suggest that high levels of perceived wage inequality have the potential to undermine the legitimacy of market outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Andreas Kuhn, 2016. "The Subversive Nature of Inequality: Subjective Inequality Perceptions and Attitudes to Social Inequality," CESifo Working Paper Series 6023, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6023
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    2. Matthias Fatke, 2018. "Inequality Perceptions, Preferences Conducive to Redistribution, and the Conditioning Role of Social Position," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(4), pages 1-14, October.
    3. Vladimir Gimpelson & Daniel Treisman, 2018. "Misperceiving inequality," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 30(1), pages 27-54, March.
    4. Frédéric Teulon & Guillaume Bigot & Bernard Terrany & Negar Youssefian, 2016. "Rémunérations des PDG : toniques ou toxiques ? Une mise en perspective de la littérature," Post-Print hal-01865108, HAL.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    inequality perceptions; attitudes to social inequality; legitimacy of market outcomes; beliefs about the causes of economic success; support of redistribution; political preferences;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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