Underestimation of Inequality in Japan
46 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2017
Date Written: March 22, 2017
This paper asks who within a polity underestimates inequality and what consequences does this underestimation have for politics. Previous studies show that people misperceive overall inequality or where their own income is in the income distribution. In Japan, there are more people who underestimate inequality than people who overestimate it. Why do Japanese underestimate inequality rather than overestimate it? I argue that people living in a relatively equal area are more likely to underestimate inequality than those living in a relatively unequal area. Furthermore, I show that underestimation changes electoral outcomes, demonstrating this by analyzing Japanese data. To reveal demographic and geographical differences in underestimation, I implement multilevel regression and poststratification (MRP) with individual level data collected by Japanese Electoral Study III and aggregate data at the prefectural level. The statistical analysis reveals three things. First, certain demographic and political factors systematically affect the probability of underestimation at the individual level. Second, the degree of underestimation varies across prefectures in Japan. Third, underestimation of inequality affects electoral outcomes.
Keywords: inequality, misperception, MRP, Japan
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