The Perception of Inequality of Opportunity in Europe

SERIES Working Papers N. 04/2016

44 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2016  

Paolo Brunori

University of Bari - Faculty of Economics

Date Written: March 16, 2016


Does the way scholars measure inequality of opportunity correspond to how people perceive it? What other factors influence individual perception of this phenomenon? To answer these questions we must first clarify how scholars define and measure inequality of opportunity. We discuss the possible mechanisms linking objective measures to subjective perception of the phenomenon, then propose a measure of perceived inequality of opportunity, and finally test our hypothesis by merging data coming from two sources: the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (2011) and the International Social Survey Programme (2009). We suggest that the prevailing perception of the degree of unequal opportunity in a large sample of respondents is only weakly correlated with its objective measure. We estimate a multilevel model considering both individual and country level controls to explain individual perception of unequal opportunity. Our estimates suggest that the two most adopted measures of inequality of opportunity have not clear role in explaining its perception. Conversely, other country level variables and personal experiences of intergenerational social mobility are important determinants of how inequality of opportunity is perceived.

Keywords: inequality of opportunity, inequality perception, intergenerational mobility, attribution theory

JEL Classification: D63, A14, D31

Suggested Citation

Brunori, Paolo, The Perception of Inequality of Opportunity in Europe (March 16, 2016). SERIES Working Papers N. 04/2016. Available at SSRN: or

Paolo Brunori (Contact Author)

University of Bari - Faculty of Economics ( email )

Piazza Cesare Battisti 1
Bari, Taranto 70121

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