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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The subjective inequality scale : a new way to measure economic inequality Schmalor, Anita


Economic inequality has become a major topic for the public and policy makers alike. Objective, aggregate indices of inequality have been associated with many social and health ills. But a less investigated question is whether perceptions of inequality are associated with different social and health problems. To this end, we developed the Subjective Inequality Scale (SIS), a measure of perceived inequality and judgments of the (un)fairness of inequality. In Study 1, we reduced an initial pool of 92 items to 19. In Study 2, we further reduced the items and conducted an exploratory factor analysis on the final eight-item scale. We also explored the extent to which the SIS correlates with related measures, and how participants of different demographic backgrounds differ in perceptions of inequality and judgments of fairness of inequality. Finally, in Study 3 a confirmatory factor analysis showed that the 2-factor solution has good psychometric properties including model fit and reliability. We further showed that the SIS is correlated with different mental health and social issues (viz. subjective wellbeing, status anxiety, trust, depression, anxiety, and stress, hope of success, fear of failure, perspective taking, empathy, hubristic pride, authentic pride, and social dominance orientation). Some of these associations with health and social variables were moderated by subjective socioeconomic status. These findings suggest that the SIS is a useful tool in understanding the psychological correlates of perceived inequality and potential demographic moderators. It can further help researchers identify potential consequences of perceived inequality.

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