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The (Mis)Perception of Economic Inequality: The Impact of Welfare State Institutions on Social Perception and Preference Formation


Aim: PERGAP aims to advance knowledge on the societal causes leading to the (mis)perception of economic inequality by developing new instruments for the assessment and comparison of the institutional structure of welfare states and investigating their impact on perception and justification processes–before, during, and potentially after the pandemic crisis and across different structural and cultural settings. Novel Contribution: PERGAP will create a unique country-comparative dataset on institutional disparities and expand knowledge of the (self-)legitimizing mechanisms of public institutions. Ultimately, it will lead to a comprehensive theoretical and empirical understanding of the impact of public institutions on social perceptions and preference formations, with implications for scientists and non-scientists alike. Conceptual Approach: Moving beyond classical distinctions of welfare regime typologies and uniting approaches from neo-institutionalist theory and empirical social justice research, I propose that social security systems provide distinct answers to the questions of ‘who gets what and why?’ and ‘who should get what and why?’ This ultimately shapes how citizens view and justify inequalities. Research Steps: (1) I will collect legal information on the ‘institutional imprints of social disparities’ in social security systems (i.e. healthcare, old age security, unemployment, minimum protection) across 50 European and non-European countries for three time points. (2) I will combine this information with country-comparative survey data to explore how institutional structures affect perceptions and justifications. Relevance: The rise of economic inequality in countries around the globe is causing societal and political concern. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, these debates have taken on new significance. How individuals perceive and respond to inequalities varies between societies and social groups; yet its contextual causes are still underexplored.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 433 028,00
08002 Barcelona

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Este Cataluña Barcelona
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 433 028,00

Beneficiaries (2)