One Way to Combat Economic Inequality: Make It an Issue of Opportunity

Despite historic levels of economic inequality, many claim that Americans are undisturbed by it. An innovative, interdisciplinary study by CUNY Graduate Center Professor Leslie McCall, however, reveals that Americans become more skeptical about the American Dream and are more likely to support policies that redistribute income and pay when they are presented with straightforward, objective information about rising economic inequality. The study, which used both psychological and other social scientific approaches, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

McCall was joined by Yale University social psychologist Jennifer Richeson and two graduate students from Northwestern University, Derek Burk and Marie Laperierre, in designing and conducting three controlled experiments involving nearly 3,300 Americans. In each experiment, participants shared their beliefs about how people get ahead.

The experiments showed that, when exposed to information about rising inequality, Americans are more likely to say that structural advantages — being wealthy, having highly educated parents — are important drivers of success, and less likely to say that individual factors, such as hard work, are important.

The study has important implications for ways to increase support for policies that enhance economic equality.

McCall is a presidential professor of sociology and political science at The Graduate Center, CUNY, and associate director of the Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality at The Graduate Center.

Beyond SUM

Explore This Work
Exposure to rising inequality shapes Americans’ opportunity beliefs and policy support
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017

Work By
Leslie McCall (Professor, Sociology and Political Science) | Profile

Colleges & Schools
The Graduate Center

Bonus Content
American Dream or Pipe Dream? Inequality Awareness Spurs Support for Change (GC News)

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