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Matthew Loveless and Stephen Whitefield "Perceiving Social Inequality in Central and Eastern Europe: Variations in Individuals' Assessments and Macro-level Indicators"

Abstract

Market economies inevitably generate social inequalities, of which, as is well-known, Central and East European (CEE) societies have seen dramatic, though widely diverging, levels of growth. But do CEE citizens believe that inequality is excessive and, if so, why? And what is the connection between perceptions of social inequality and citizens’ views of new markets and democracy? These questions are addressed using new data from mass surveys conducted in 2007 in 12 post-Communist CEE states. We find that perceptions of social inequality are driven by some national conditions, by assessments of market and democratic performance, and by market but not democratic ideals. We find that perceptions of social inequality are driven by some national conditions, by assessments of market and democratic performance, and by market but not democratic ideals. So far as popular acceptance of levels of social inequality is a requisite of market and democratic consolidation, despite some normative ‘stickiness’, perceptions appear amenable to institutional interventions.

Data collection for this paper was carried out as part of the Eurequal project ‘Social Inequality and Why It Matters for the Economic and Democratic Development of Europe and Its Citizens: Post-Communist Central and Eastern Europe in Comparative Perspective’, funded by the European Commission under contract No 028920 (CIT5), Framework 6. The authors are grateful for the helpful comments of Dave Anderson, Sara Hobolt and Robert Rohrschneider.