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Unfair inequality, governance and individual beliefs

J. Michelle Brock

Journal of Comparative Economics, 2020, vol. 48, issue 3, 658-687

Abstract: Unfair inequality arises when incentives are not fairly tied to effort or investment across the socio-economic spectrum. The actual limitations on economic activity from this failure may depend on whether people believe the system is unfair, and how well governing institutions safeguard fair-play. In this paper, I study whether unfair wealth inequality is correlated with beliefs about fairness, and whether good governance can be a substitute in belief formations for decreases in unfair inequality. I find a that people in countries with recent increases in unfair wealth inequality are less likely to believe that inequality is due to fair processes. This relationship holds when“fair” determinants of inequality include effort, as well as moral and meritocratic components. The relationship is strongest in countries with poor quality governance. In countries with high quality governance, people appear to be more tolerant of unfair inequality, as it is only weakly reflected in their beliefs about process fairness.

Keywords: Inequality of opportunity; Unfair inequality; Process fairness; Beliefs; Governance (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D31 D63 E71 Z19 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:48:y:2020:i:3:p:658-687

DOI: 10.1016/j.jce.2020.03.001

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