References (67)



Income Inequality Influences Perceptions of Legitimate Income Differences

Kris-Stella Trump

Harvard University - Department of Government

September 12, 2014

This paper argues that public opinion regarding the legitimacy of income differences is influenced by actual income inequality. When income differences are (perceived to be) high, the public thinks of larger income inequality as legitimate. The phenomenon is explained by the system justification motivation and other psychological processes that advantage and legitimate existing social arrangements. This is demonstrated in three experiments, which show that personal experiences of inequality as well as information regarding national-level income inequality can affect which income differences are thought of as legitimate. A fourth experiment shows that the system justification motivation is a cause of this effect. The results can help us explain the empirical puzzle of why higher income inequality across time and space does not systematically result in higher dissatisfaction with inequality.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 43

Keywords: Inequality, Redistribution, Public Opinion, Status quo bias, System Justification

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Date posted: September 11, 2013 ; Last revised: September 13, 2014

Suggested Citation

Trump, Kris-Stella, Income Inequality Influences Perceptions of Legitimate Income Differences (September 12, 2014). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2324255 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2324255

Contact Information

Kris-Stella Trump (Contact Author)
Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )
1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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