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The effect of education, income inequality and merit on inequality acceptance

Barr, Abigail; Miller, Luis


Luis Miller


A large number of observational and experimental studies have explored the determinants of individual preferences for redistribution. In general, inequalities are more likely to be accepted by people of higher socioeconomic status, in richer societies and when inequalities are perceived as justifiable owing to differences in productivity. Almas et al. (2019) show that in a relatively unequal society (the United States), the highly educated accept inequality significantly more than the less educated, whereas, in a relatively equal society (Norway), the less educated accept inequality more, but not significantly more, than the highly educated. Here, we replicate this finding using data from experiments conducted in four locations across three countries all distinct from the ones studied by Almas et al. However, a closer look at the data indicates that the origin of the interaction effect varies depending on which societies one compares. Data for Norway and the United States indicate that meritocratic values among the highly educated are less prevalent in more equal societies and that this is the driver of the triple interaction effect. In contrast, in our data the interaction effects have multiple drivers.


Barr, A., & Miller, L. (2020). The effect of education, income inequality and merit on inequality acceptance. Journal of Economic Psychology, 80,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 21, 2020
Online Publication Date May 11, 2020
Publication Date Oct 1, 2020
Deposit Date Apr 23, 2020
Publicly Available Date Nov 12, 2021
Journal Journal of Economic Psychology
Print ISSN 0167-4870
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 80
Article Number 102276
Keywords Applied Psychology; Economics and Econometrics; Sociology and Political Science
Public URL
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