Inequality, Geography, and Perceptions

Inequality, Geography, and Perceptions Inequality and Social Comparisons | Inequality, Politics, and Group Dynamics | Inequality and the Top-End | Inequality and the Workplace | Inequality and Health | Earlier Topics of Focus

Defining Themes

  • How do people become aware of high and rising economic inequality, and how do they become aware of their own relative economic status?
  • At what geographic scale(s) do individuals most acutely or relevantly experience economic inequality?
  • In which spaces do individuals encounter or perceive the presence of inequality, and how do these spaces vary across populations? 
  • How can researchers study the interplay between information about inequality that individuals receive digitally, such as via social media, and the information they gather through interacting with their physical environments?

Specific Research Questions

  • What kind of social comparisons do people make in different spaces, and which spaces encountered in daily life—such as airplanes or sports stadia—might prompt particular recognition of inequality? How might environments that elicit feelings of community or shared purpose alter these comparisons? 
    • How does the physical layout and built environment of a given place affect perceptions of inequality?
    • Are there particular locales or situations where inequality is rendered highly obvious, and where individuals’ attitudinal or behavioral responses to such environments could be studied?
  • To what degree, if at all, do individuals’ reactions to inequality in their surrounding environments map onto their responses to more generalized economic inequality (e.g., at the national level)?
  • What are the effects of relative economic heterogeneity (as distinct from the effects of average income level)—in locales such as schools, religious communities, neighborhoods, or commuting zones—on outcomes such as attitude formation or children’s economic success later in life?
  • Does geographic isolation of the very wealthy or very poor affect those populations’ perceptions of the and their place within the distribution?
    • What other populations might be less exposed to the presence of inequality?
    • Among populations with little exposure to economic inequality, what effects does this exposure have when it does occur? 
  • Growing economic inequality over the long term may reshape demography, settlement patterns, and the physical geography of neighborhoods. How, if at all, does inequality differently change various groups of people’s movement patterns? What consequences might these changes have for perceptions of inequality? 
  • Do certain personal characteristics—such as economic background, partisan affiliation, and race—shape how individuals perceive and understand information about economic inequality, and if so, how?