When and why is economic inequality seen as fair


Economic inequality is seen as fair when people believe it to be the result of fair processes, or in other words, in accordance with normative rules about resource allocation. As a result, people may support substantial inequalities of outcome as fair. There is broad agreement, within and across societies, on the normative rules that govern resource allocation. However, when people use these rules to evaluate specific instances of inequality, their conclusions are systematically affected by available information, self-interest and group-interest, and system justification. This causes divided opinions regarding the fairness of specific inequalities. Recent evidence suggests that growing economic inequality does not directly impact perceptions of fairness, but may reduce perceptions of meritocracy, thereby indirectly reducing the legitimacy of inequality.

Publication Title

Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences