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The Individual Perception of Wage Inequality: A Measurement Framework and Some Empirical Evidence

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  • Kuhn, Andreas

    (Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training)

Abstract

This paper presents a simple conceptual framework specifically tailored to measure individual perceptions of wage inequality. Using internationally comparable survey data, the empirical part of the paper documents that there is huge variation in inequality perceptions both across and within countries as well as survey-years. Focusing on the association between aggregate-level inequality measures and individuals' subjective perception of wage inequality, it turns out that there is both a high correlation between the two measures as well as a considerable amount of misperception of the prevailing level of inequality. The final part of the analysis shows that subjective inequality perceptions appear to be more important, in a statistical sense, in explaining variation in individual-level attitudes towards social inequality than objective measures of inequality. This underlines the conceptual and practical importance of distinguishing between subjective perceptions of inequality and the true level of inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Kuhn, Andreas, 2015. "The Individual Perception of Wage Inequality: A Measurement Framework and Some Empirical Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 9579, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp9579
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    Cited by:

    1. Knell, Markus & Stix, Helmut, 2020. "Perceptions of inequality," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 65(C).
    2. John Knight & Ramani Gunatilaka, 2020. "Income inequality and happiness: perceived or actual, widely or narrowly defined, fair or unfair, self- or community-centred inequality?," Economics Series Working Papers 922, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    3. Andreas Kuhn, 2016. "The Subversive Nature of Inequality: Subjective Inequality Perceptions and Attitudes to Social Inequality," CESifo Working Paper Series 6023, CESifo.
    4. Elisabeth Bublitz, 2017. "Misperceptions of income distributions: Cross-country evidence from a randomized survey experiment," LIS Working papers 694, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    5. M. D. R. Evans & Jonathan Kelley, 2018. "Strong Welfare States Do Not Intensify Public Support for Income Redistribution, but Even Reduce It among the Prosperous: A Multilevel Analysis of Public Opinion in 30 Countries," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(4), pages 1-52, October.
    6. Kuhn, Andreas, 2019. "The subversive nature of inequality: Subjective inequality perceptions and attitudes to social inequality," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 331-344.
    7. Choi, Gwangeun, 2019. "Revisiting the redistribution hypothesis with perceived inequality and redistributive preferences," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 220-244.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    inequality perceptions; inequality; attitudes towards social inequality; (mis-)perceptions of socio-economic phenomena;
    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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