The impact of subjective social status, inequality perceptions, and inequality tolerance on demand for redistribution. The case of a highly unequal society

Frederich Kirsten, Ilse Botha, Biyase Mduduzi, Marinda Pretorius

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The international literature shows that demand for redistribution is influenced by subjective factors like perceptions of inequality and individuals’ perceived social status. However, few have assessed these subjective dynamics in the developing South, especially in Africa. This study aims to assess the subjective interlinkages between subjective social status, inequality perceptions and demand for redistribution in South Africa, the country with the highest level of inequality in the world. Using ISSP data and an ordered probit model, we show that subjective social status is a negative and significant determinant of demand for redistribution in South Africa. This means that South Africans who position themselves on the lower rungs of society demand higher redistribution and vice versa. Furthermore, perceptions of inequality are significant in driving demand for redistribution in South Africa, as this study finds that inequality tolerance negatively influences demand for redistribution and perceptions of actual inequality positively influence demand for redistribution. This means that South Africans who perceive higher levels of inequality tend to demand more redistribution, while South Africans who tolerate more inequality tend to demand less redistribution. Surprisingly, inequality tolerance is relatively high among the unemployed, Africans, and females. Many of these individuals are part of the most vulnerable in society and would actually benefit from more redistribution. Overall, the results show that, in South Africa, subjective factors like subjective social status and attitudes towards inequality significantly influence demand for redistribution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-148
Number of pages24
JournalJournal for Studies in Economics and Econometrics
Volume46
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • inequality
  • redistribution
  • social norms
  • Social stratification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics

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