Working Paper

A New Survey Instrument to Assess Inequality Acceptability


Why is there general support for equality-enhancing policies in some social contexts, while in others, social inequalities seem to be widely regarded as acceptable? In the last sixty years, this research question has been raised hundreds of times across the social sciences. Here, we use a new survey-experimental design that may overcome some of the limitations of previous studies. Three sets of determinants of inequality acceptability are explored: individual socioeconomic status (SES), societal economic inequality, and the source or origin of inequality. The results of a survey experiment conducted in 2020 based on a large and heterogeneous sample confirm that inequalities are considered fairer by high-SES individuals and when they are due to performance. Although the effect of societal inequality on preferences is less robust, we find that in more unequal contexts, equal distributions are judged to be fairer.

Keywords: Inequality, redistribution, socioeconomic status, survey experiments