IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

How Social Class Shapes Attitudes on Economic Inequality: The Competing Forces of Self-Interest and Legitimation

Listed author(s):
  • Josh Curtis


  • Robert Andersen


Registered author(s):

    Using survey data from the World Values Survey (WVS) and national-level statistics from various official sources, we explore how attitudes toward economic inequality are shaped by economic conditions across 24 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Consistent with the economic self-interest thesis, we find that where income inequality is low, those in lower economic positions tend to be less likely than those in higher economic positions to favor it being increased. On the other hand, where economic resources are highly unequally distributed, the adverse effects of inequality climb the class ladder, resulting in the middle classes being just as likely as the working class to favor a reduction in inequality. Our results further suggest that people tend to see current levels of inequality as legitimate, regardless of their own economic position, but nonetheless desire economic change—i.e., they would like to see inequality reduced—if they perceive it could improve their own economic situation.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg in its series LIS Working papers with number 644.

    in new window

    Length: 39 pages
    Date of creation: Sep 2015
    Publication status: Published in International Review of Social Research 5, no. 1 (2015): 4-19
    Handle: RePEc:lis:liswps:644
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    11, Porte des Sciences, L-4366 Esch-Belval

    Phone: +352 466 644 5950
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    in new window

    1. Nolan, Brian & Salverda, Wiemer & Checchi, Daniele & Marx, Ive & McKnight, Abigail & Toth, Istvan Gy (ed.), 2014. "Changing Inequalities and Societal Impacts in Rich Countries: Thirty Countries' Experiences," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199687428.
    2. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "Income Inequality in the United States, 1913–1998," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 1-41.
    3. Robert Andersen & Anthony Heath, 2003. "Social identities and political cleavages: the role of political context," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 166(3), pages 301-327.
    4. DAVIES, JAMES B & Shorrocks, Anthony & Sandstrom, Susanna & WOLFF, EDWARD N, 2007. "The World Distribution of Household Wealth," Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, Working Paper Series qt3jv048hx, Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, UC Santa Cruz.
    5. Frederick Solt, 2009. "Standardizing the World Income Inequality Database," LIS Working papers 496, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    6. Geoffrey Evans & Anthony Heath, 1995. "The measurement of left-right and libertarian-authoritarian values: A comparison of balanced and unbalanced scales," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 29(2), pages 191-206, May.
    7. repec:cup:apsrev:v:88:y:1994:i:02:p:336-354_09 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Frederick Solt, 2009. "Standardizing the World Income Inequality Database," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(2), pages 231-242.
    9. Heath, Anthony & Evans, Geoffrey & Martin, Jean, 1994. "The Measurement of Core Beliefs and Values: The Development of Balanced Socialist/Laissez Faire and Libertarian/Authoritarian Scales," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 24(01), pages 115-132, January.
    10. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-927, October.
    11. repec:cup:apsrev:v:105:y:2011:i:02:p:316-336_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Arthur Alderson & Jason Beckfield & Francois Nielsen, 2005. "Exactly How has Income Inequality Changed? Patterns of Distributional Change in Core Societies," LIS Working papers 422, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    13. World Bank, 2010. "World Development Indicators 2010," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 4373, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:lis:liswps:644. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Piotr Paradowski)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.