Date of Award

12-4-2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Roderick Watts - Chair

Second Advisor

Gabriel Kuperminc - Co-Chair

Third Advisor

Julie Ancis

Fourth Advisor

James Emshoff

Fifth Advisor

Marci Culley

Abstract

The current degree of economic inequality in the US is the largest it has been since prior to the Great Depression and growing. Economic inequality is linked to mortality, social capital, interpersonal trust, and democratic participation, beyond the effects of poverty. Two main constructs are reviewed as predictors of support for efforts to reduce inequality: 1) distributive justice norms (equity and equality of outcome), and 2) causal attributions (individual and structural). Justification of the unequal status quo is often driven by reference to dominant cultural values personal responsibility and just deserts, which are likened to individual attributions and equity, respectively. However, individuals may also recognize that economic outcomes are determined by structural factors such as discrimination and privilege. Recognition that structural factors determine economic outcomes is referred to as systems analysis. Systems analysis is expected to be unrelated to individual attributions, reflecting the common view that economic outcomes are determined by both individual and structural factors. Furthermore, systems analysis is conceptualized as the central determinant of both the extent to which equality of outcome is desirable, despite prevailing preferences for equity, and the use of dominant cultural values as justifications for opposition to redistribution. Because systems analysis reflects the view that resources are not distributed solely based on individual merit, it implies that resources are not distributed fairly. This belief is expected to increase endorsement for equality of outcome and weaken negative effects of equity and individual attributions on support for redistribution. Predictors of support for government action to reduce inequality were examined using the US sample (n = 1414) of the 1991 International Social Justice Project. Opposition to reducing inequality is often driven by reference to dominant cultural values such as the equity distributive justice norm and individualistic causal attributions. The present study tested the hypothesis that supporters and opponents share a common endorsement of these dominant values, but differ in the extent to which they acknowledge that structural factors determine economic outcomes (defined as systems analysis). Results indicated that the negative relationship between individual attributions and support for redistribution was only significant among participants with low systems analysis.

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