Given the near-historic levels of economic inequality in the United States, it is vital to understand when and why people are motivated to reduce it. We examine whether the manner in which economic inequality and policy are framed—in terms of either upper-socio-economic-class advantages or lower-socio-economic-class disadvantages—influences individuals’ reactions to inequality. Across five studies, framing redistributive policy (Study 1) as disadvantage-reducing (versus advantage-reducing) and economic inequality (Studies 2–5) as lower-class disadvantages (versus upper-class advantages or a control frame) enhances support for action to reduce inequality. Moreover, increased support is partly driven by perceptions that inequality is more unjust if framed as lower-class disadvantages. Using diverse methodologies (for example, social media engagement on Facebook) and nationally representative samples of self-reported upper-class and lower-class individuals, this work suggests that the ways in which economic inequality is communicated (for example, by the media) may reliably influence people’s reactions to and concern for the issue.
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We thank the reviewers of our Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS) application for their helpful comments as well as the TESS programme itself for support in Study 3. M.A.C. acknowledges support from the National Science Foundation (grant no. NSF-BCS-1823840). The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. We thank M. Lee, K. Brennan, C. Hoffman, C. Myers, D. Baltiansky, J. Worrall, P. Ponce and A. Weinberg for helping with the data collection. We also thank L. T. Phillips for her insightful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Dietze, P., Craig, M.A. Framing economic inequality and policy as group disadvantages (versus group advantages) spurs support for action. Nat Hum Behav 5, 349–360 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-00988-4