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Perceptions of Inequality and Justice

Coordinator 1Ms Jule Adriaans (Bielefeld University)
Coordinator 2Dr Sandra Bohmann (Socio-Economic Panel Study at DIW Berlin)
Coordinator 3Professor Stefan Liebig (Socio-Economic Panel Study at DIW Berlin)
Coordinator 4Mr Matteo Targa (Socio-Economic Panel Study at DIW Berlin)

Session Details

Reducing inequalities in life chances and outcomes is identified as one of the key societal challenges of today and the economic turmoil experienced as a consequence of the pandemic as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine have exacerbated questions of social inequality and social justice across Europe.

One important contribution that the social sciences have made and continue to make in this debate, is highlighting the importance of subjective evaluations in understanding the persistence of inequalities as well as the proposed far-reaching consequences for well-being and social cohesion. Research continues to show that individuals misperceive inequality, evaluate inequalities in terms of justice, and hold normative beliefs that legitimize inequalities – all of which help to understand why inequalities persist, why inequalities do not necessarily translate into adverse consequences, and how individuals will react to policies aiming to address inequalities.

National and international surveys offer rich data for studying the determinants and consequences of such subjective perspectives on inequality. For example, Round 9 of the European Social Survey (2018/2019) featured a module on “Justice and Fairness in Europe”, the International Social Survey Programme fielded the fifth iteration of its “Social Inequality” module in 2019, and the German Socio-Economic Panel Study included a questionnaire module on social inequality in 2021. All of which extend beyond a narrow scope of income and wealth inequality but also cover issues of social mobility, preferences for distributive principles, life chances, and political procedural justice, allowing for a comprehensive account of perceptions of inequality and justice.

We are inviting contributions that address methodological questions with respect to survey measures and survey-embedded experiments that capture attitudes towards inequality as well as substantive applications of survey research that shed light on the determinants and consequences of subjective perspectives on inequality and justice.