Why do we accept market inequality?

For those attending in-person, the entrance to CESS is located at George Street Mews and you will need to ring the bell when you have arrived.

According to some canonical models in political economy, one would expect citizens to react to increasing inequality by demanding a reduction of it. The reality, however, points in the opposite direction: citizens can feel comfortable with inequality, to the extent that they can end up not only tolerating it, but also justifying it. The aim of this project is to understand the way in which individuals think about economic inequality. To obtain a more fine-grained understanding of the reasons why individuals come to accept inequality, this project focuses on the way in which the market distributes its rewards in the first place. To date, political scientists have not paid enough attention to the reasons why individuals think different occupations should earn different salaries. This project is designed to test a novel approach to market inequality. It will (i) draw on work in sociology and political theory to assess what factors linked to a job are related to merit; (ii) explore the importance individuals assign to merit-related factors compared to non-merit related factors (e.g., a job’s exposure to automation) in determining pay; and (iii) isolate causal effects using a conjoint experiment.