Perceptions of Inequality

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Loveless, Matthew. 2016. “Inequality and Support for Political Engagement in New Democracies” Europe-Asia Studies 68(6): 1003-1019.

Abstract: The literature on income inequality and political participation – including related literatures, e.g. preferences for redistribution – leaves us with the question of whether citizens see political democracy as a means to contest market inequalities. Using original surveys in 13 Central and Eastern European countries, I find that those who see high and undesirable levels of income inequality have stronger demands for popular democratic participation than those who do not. In addition, neither the aggregate levels of support for political engagement nor individuals’ perceptions of inequality are coordinated with either national-level indicators of income inequality or democratic performance.

Simpson, Kathryn and Matthew Loveless. 2016. “Another Chance?: Concerns about Inequality and Support for both the European Union and Further Integration” Journal of European Public Policy DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2016.1170872

Abstract: Following the 2007-8 financial crisis, it was expected that the economic downturn and the widening of economic disparities would produce lower support for the European Union (EU) and its continued integration. Using the 2009 European Election Study data in 27 EU member states, we find that citizens who see greater economic instability and insecurity – regardless of their current economic status – lower their support for the EU as it is but increase their support for continuing integration. Substantively, this suggests that EU citizens may offer the EU another chance to tackle this timely issue and counterbalance market-generated inequality.

Loveless, Matthew. 2016. “Seeing Corruption: How Individuals’ Perceptions of Inequality Challenge New Democracies” in John A. Bishop and Juan Gabriel Rodríguez (eds.) Inequality after the 20th Century: Papers from the Sixth ECINEQ Meeting: Research on Economic Inequality (Volume 24). Emerald Group Publishing   Ltd, pp.247-270.

Abstract: Using original mass public surveys in 9 East European, European Union (EU) member countries (2007), I develop a micro-level approach linking individuals’ perceptions of inequality and corruption. Merging an instrumental variables approach with an emerging body of comparative scholarship, I demonstrate that individuals’ perceptions of inequality can be seen to contribute to their perceptions of corruption based on individuals’ normative concerns of the failure of democratic institutions to address issues related to inequality. Thus, for these countries, this region, the EU, as well as other new democracies, we can better understand these potential threats to the development of stable, sustainable democracy.

Binelli, Chiara and Matthew Loveless. 2016. “The Urban-Rural Divide: Perceptions of Income and Social Inequality in Central and Eastern Europe” The Economics of Transition 24(2): 211-231. DOI: 10.1111/ecot.12087

Abstract: A vast literature has related perceptions of income inequality to individuals’ income: the higher the level of income, the less inequality is perceived. Here, examining the perceptions of income and social inequality, we argue that rural or urban residence affects both inequality perceptions and the impact of income on these perceptions. We test the theory using survey data from 12 Central and Eastern European countries and we find that income negatively affects inequality perceptions but only in urban areas. These findings confirm the importance of accounting for urbanity to understand what drives inequality perceptions.

Binelli, Chiara, Matthew Loveless, and Stephen Whitefield. 2015. “What Is Social Inequality and Why Does it Matter? Evidence from Central and Eastern Europe” World Development 70:239-248.

Abstract: As distinct from income or wealth inequality, ‘social inequality’ is currently poorly understood and, at best, unevenly measured. We conceptualize social inequality as the relative position of individuals along a number of dimensions that measure achieved outcomes and, innovatively, expectations about future outcomes. Using data from 12 Central and Eastern European countries, we find that cross-national patterns of social inequality differ significantly from patterns derived from income inequality measures. Moreover, our measure of social inequality is much better correlated than income inequality with other country differences such as higher levels of economic performance and human development, and stronger political institutions.

Loveless, Matthew. 2013. “The Deterioration of Democratic Political Culture: Consequences of the Perception of Inequality” Social Justice Research. 26(4): 471-491. DOI: 10.1007/s11211-013-0198-7.

Abstract: Using survey data from 9 East European members of the European Union (EU), we find that citizens’ political and social disengagement is strongly related to their perceptions of inequalities in society. Specifically, individuals’ perceptions that income and social inequalities are excessive  clearly coordinates with lower levels of trust and political efficacy, as well as higher levels of both a general suspicion of others and political apathy. This is troubling as these attitudes and orientations are part of what constitute a healthy democratic political culture and thus germane to the long-term legitimacy of both national and EU governance. Further, in contrast to much of the work on inequality, this effect is neither contingent on individuals’ income levels nor clearly linked to national-level economic indicators.

Whitefield, Stephen and Matthew Loveless. 2013. “Social Inequality and Social Conflict: Evidence from the New Market Democracies of Central and Eastern Europe” Europe-Asia Studies 65(1): 26-44.

Abstract:  Considerable comparative scholarly attention has been paid to various aspects of mass support for democracy and the market.  However, despite strong theoretical priors to suggest a linkage, little is known about the impact of social inequality on this support.  We address this issue using evidence from mass surveys undertaken in 12 post-Communist states in 2007 supplemented by country-level data about economic and political performance. Specifically, we investigate whether social inequality generates negative perceptions that democracy and the market will lead to social conflict and that it increases support for anti-democratic forms of governance. Notably, we find little link between citizens’ expectations of social conflict and national-level indices of income inequality. However, we do find a link between perceptions of the extent of social inequality and expectations of market generated – but not democracy generated – conflict.  Underscoring these positive and negative findings, perceptions of social inequality are also clearly consequential for support for ‘strong hand’ economic government but not for anti-democratic leadership.

Loveless, Matthew and Stephen Whitefield. 2011. “Being Unequal and Seeing Inequality: Explaining the Political Significance of Social Inequality in New Market Democracies” European Journal of Political Research 50:239-266. 

Abstract: Market economies inevitably generate social inequalities, of which the new democracies of Central and East European (CEE) societies have seen dramatic – though widely diverging – levels of growth. But do CEE citizens believe that inequality is excessive and, if so, why? And what is the connection between perceptions of social inequality and citizens’ views of new markets and democracy? These questions are addressed using new data from mass surveys conducted in 2007 in 12 post-Communist CEE states. We find surprisingly weak links between social inequality perceptions and national-level measures of inequality as well economic, social and political conditions.  Rather perceptions of social inequality are mainly driven by individual-level assessments of market and democratic performance but not by market or democratic ideals.

Loveless, Matthew. 2010. “Agreeing in Principle: Perceptions of Social Inequality and Support for the European Union in Central and Eastern Europe” Journal of Common Market Studies 48(4): 1085-1108. 

Abstract: Using new mass surveys in central and eastern Europe, this article tests utilitarianism and economic values as the bases of support for the European Union. Advancing our understanding, the empirical findings point to increasingly nuanced economic criteria as the perception of social inequality strongly and independently influences EU

Invited (Peer-Reviewed) Publications

Binelli, Chiara and Matthew Loveless. 2013. “Looking at Inequality” Economic Review Issue 30(4): 12-15.

Book Chapters

Whitefield, Stephen, Matthew Loveless, and Chiara Binelli. 2012. “Social Inequality: Its Character, How it is Perceived, and the Implications of its Perception for Social and Political Stability” in I.I. Eliseeva et al. (eds.), Социальное неравенство. [Social Inequality in the Post-socialist Countries of Central and Eastern Europe: A Sociological Analysis], Nestor Historia: Moscow.  pp. 15-32.

Access to downloadable publications: Researchgate