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Denise Traber (University of Basel)

7 December 2023 @ 14:00 - 15:15


  • Past event


7 December 2023
14:00 - 15:15
Event Category:
Academic Events

Economic Inequality, Group Conflict, and Affective Polarization Between the Rich and the Poor

Abstract. Does economic inequality lead to higher levels of group conflict and affective polarization between the rich and the poor? We advance two competing theoretical arguments: On the one hand, psychological theories of class conflict assume that inequality accentuates perceptions of individual economic positions, leading to more pronounced class identifications among both low – and high – income people. Consequently, resentment and animosity towards the out-group will increase and conflict and affective polarization between the rich and the poor intensifies. On the other hand, since inequality diminishes the material status of the lower socioeconomic classes, political economists hypothesize that rising levels of economic inequality will decrease the class identity among the poor. Consequently, conflict and affective polarization should be reduced. To test these expectations, we employ two different empirical approaches. First, we conduct a survey experiment in Germany in which we randomly treat respondents with factual information about the country’s wealth distribution. The results will show to what extent inequality causally affects the perceived hostility and conflict between the rich and the poor. Second, we supplement the experimental evidence with an observational study based on data from the International Social survey for 17 countries over a period of more than 30 years. Our preliminary results show that economic inequality is negatively related with subjective social status and leads to higher perceived conflict among all social classes.