False Consciousness or Class Awareness? Local Income Inequality, Personal Economic Position, and Belief in American Meritocracy

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Authors Benjamin Newman, Christopher David Johnston, Patrick L. Lown
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Existing research analyzes the effects of cross-national and temporal variation in income inequality on public opinion; however, research has failed to explore the impact of variation in inequality across citizens� local residential context. This article analyzes the impact of local inequality on citizens� belief in a core facet of the American ethos�meritocracy. We advance conditional effects hypotheses that collectively argue that the effect of residing in a high-inequality context will be moderated by individual income. Utilizing national survey data, we demonstrate that residing in more unequal counties heightens rejection of meritocracy among low-income residents and bolsters adherence among high-income residents. In relatively equal counties, we find no significant differences between high- and low-income citizens. We conclude by discussing the implications of class-based polarization found in response to local inequality with respect to current debates over the consequences of income inequality for American democracy.
Date of publication 2015
Code Programming Language R

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