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Perceptions of Inequality

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Abstract

Although people's perception of (income or wealth) inequality has important e_ects on their decisions as economic agents or voters, little is known about how perceptions relate to measured inequality. We present a novel formal framework that is based on the assumption that people typically do not observe the entire income (wealth) distribution and that their guesses about the extent of inequality are based on reference groups. This framework predicts that perceptions of inequality will change along positions in the income distribution and that for a speci_c position various dimensions of inequality perception are related to each other. First, low (high) income individuals overestimate (underestimate) their own position. Second, subjective estimates of average earnings increase with the own income position. Third, high or low income people have di_erent perceptions about the \distributional shape" of society (e.g. pyramid or diamond). Fourth, the subjective perception of inequality is lower for high-income individuals. Survey data from 40 countries provide strong support for the framework

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  • Markus Knell & Helmut Stix, 2017. "Perceptions of Inequality," Working Papers 216, Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank).
  • Handle: RePEc:onb:oenbwp:216
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    Cited by:

    1. Gimpelson, V. & Chernina, E., 2020. "How we perceive our place in income distribution and how the perceptions deviate from reality," Journal of the New Economic Association, New Economic Association, vol. 46(2), pages 30-56.
    2. Michael A. Nelson & Rajeev K. Goel, 2021. "Does Gender Equality Translate into Economic Equality? Evidence from about 150 Nations," CESifo Working Paper Series 8949, CESifo.
    3. Markus Knell & Helmut Stix, 2019. "How Peer Groups Influence Economic Perceptions," Working Papers 227, Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank).
    4. Kerim Peren Arin & Juan A. Lacomba & Francisco Lagos & Deni Mazrekaj & Marcel Thum, 2021. "Misperceptions and Fake News during the Covid-19 Pandemic," CESifo Working Paper Series 9066, CESifo.
    5. 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.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Income distribution; perception of inequality; reference groups;
    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
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access

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