East Asia Workshop: Politics, Economy and Society

Yeonju Lee | April 3, “Understanding the Causes of Inequality Perceptions”




“Understanding the Causes of Inequality Perceptions” 

Yeonju Lee

Harvard University, Postdoctoral Fellow


April 3, Wed 12:00-1:30 pm

Pick Lounge, 5828 South University Ave.

Light lunch will be provided


Recent studies have shown that perceptions of inequality have a meaningful effect on people’s political preferences such as support for redistribution. Although it is important to understand where these perceptions come from, we know little about the origins of individual inequality perceptions, especially across different countries. When and how do people perceive income inequality at the individual level? Given similar levels of actual income inequality, why do countries have varying levels of perceived inequality? This paper attempts to answer these questions in two parts: first, the paper tests the effect of potential short-term triggers of perceived inequality – factual information about inequality, a sense of injustice, visibility of inequality, media, and various demographic characteristics – using original survey and experiments conducted in Japan and Korea. I find that a sense of injustice is the strongest predictor of perceived inequality while factual information about inequality and visibility of inequality do not have any meaningful effect. Media has mixed impacts on individual inequality perceptions.  Second, the paper traces historical paths of the two countries to explain the persistence of “collective” inequality perceptions at the country level.



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* Questions and comments can be addressed to the student coordinators Jongyoon Baik: baikjongyoon@uchicago.edu and Ji Xue: jixue@uchicago.edu

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This event is sponsored by the University of Chicago Center for East Asian Studies

The East Asia Workshop is sponsored by the Council on Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences.


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