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Does Inequality Matter?

How People Perceive Economic Disparities and Social Mobility

The recovery after the COVID-19 crisis requires policies and reforms that tackle inequalities and promote equal opportunities. However, the implementation of such reforms requires widespread support from the public. To better understand what factors drive public support, this report provides a detailed cross-country analysis of people’s perceptions of and concern over inequality. It documents how concern over income disparities has risen in OECD countries over the long run. Nowadays, in most countries a large majority of the population believes that income disparities are too large and that intergenerational mobility is low. Yet, sufficient support for inequality-reducing policies may fail to arise if people do not agree on concrete policy options, or doubt the effectiveness of such policies. Moreover, even when the majority demands more equality, a divided public opinion can complicate the introduction of reforms. The report highlights how people within the same country are often divided as to the extent of inequality and what should be done to address this challenge. The report illustrates how the findings from analysis of perceptions and concerns can serve to inform policy making.

Published on November 18, 2021

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Foreword
ISO country codes
Executive summary
Overview
How do people perceive economic inequalities?
How does inequality shape the demand for redistribution?
Has the public opinion become more divided?
Implications for policy
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