Attention to Biased Media and Perceptions of Inequality

Posted: 14 Jan 2020 Last revised: 13 Apr 2020

See all articles by Jidong Chen

Jidong Chen

Tsinghua University - School of Public Policy and Management

Date Written: January 1, 2020

Abstract

Can biased media in authoritarian systems effectively reshape citizens' beliefs if they have an option of not paying attention to it? We address this question by developing a formal model where citizens can choose whether to consume media while perceiving the existence of information manipulation. We apply this model to understand how media consumption shapes citizens' perceived income inequality. In equilibrium, media exposure is negatively correlated with perceived inequality only when media bias is moderate. This negative correlation can be decomposed into the manipulation effect and the self-selection effect. The manipulation effect captures the change of perception due to random media exposure, and the self-selection effect captures the fact that individuals with lower perceived inequality are more likely to consume media. Furthermore, the impact of media exposure is weaker among more informed individuals. Using a nationwide survey from China, we find empirical evidence consistent with the theoretical predictions.

Keywords: Media Bias, Perception of Economic Inequality, Media Exposure

Suggested Citation

Chen, Jidong, Attention to Biased Media and Perceptions of Inequality (January 1, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3515718 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3515718

Jidong Chen (Contact Author)

Tsinghua University - School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Beijing, 100084
China

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