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The impact of redistribution policies on inequality tolerance and beliefs in meritocracy

Project description

Why the poor aren’t demanding redistribution of wealth

Economic inequality in Europe is growing. Studies show large income gains among the 10 % of top earners as the main driver behind this trend. Also, the poorest 10 % continue to lose ground. No doubt this is a worrying phenomenon. So why aren’t the poor calling on governments to level the playing field? Why is public demand for wealth redistribution waning? The EU-funded MERIT project will investigate the psychological processes that lead to inequality tolerance and inequality justification. It will consider the meritocratic belief that inequality is the outcome of a fair process where societal success reflects talent and effort. The project will examine whether the absence of redistribution policies results in higher inequality tolerance. It will also draw on the theory of cognitive dissonance to explore whether high inequality tolerance leads to endorsement of meritocratic beliefs.

Objective

Despite the growing economic inequality, there is no evidence of growing public demand for wealth redistribution. One proposed explanation for this paradox is the popular belief that inequality is the outcome of a fair process where societal success reflects talent and effort. Across countries, the popularity of these meritocratic beliefs bears no relationship to the actual social mobility and is associated with increased levels of within-country inequality. On the other hand, these beliefs negatively correlate with the extent of social spending and redistribution in each country. In light of this correlational evidence, this project employ an experimental approach to investigate the potential role of redistribution policies in the formation of biased meritocratic beliefs and the psychological mechanisms that underlie this process. Building on research in Psychology and Economics, I first examine whether the absence of redistribution incentivizes agents to become more tolerant of inequality. Drawing on the theory of cognitive dissonance, I then explore whether high inequality tolerance leads to endorsement of meritocratic beliefs. After establishing the role of redistribution on beliefs, I use functional neuroimaging to shed light on the neurocognitive mechanisms that underlie the formation of biased beliefs. Overall, this research tries to address a long-standing question about the psychological processes that lead to inequality tolerance and fits the EU priorities of a deeper and fairer economic Union. My strong background in Neuroscience, combined with my supervisor’s extensive expertise in Behavioral Economics and the excellent training environment at UM guarantee the success of this project. This project will critically contribute to my development as an independent researcher in the field of Neuroeconomics and Behavioral Economics and will allow me to forge a new collaborative research line at the MPE.

Coordinator

UNIVERSITEIT MAASTRICHT
Net EU contribution
€ 175 572,48
Address
MINDERBROEDERSBERG 4
6200 MD Maastricht
Netherlands

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Region
Zuid-Nederland Limburg (NL) Zuid-Limburg
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Total cost
€ 175 572,48