Public Opinion and Attitudes

There are two ways in which poverty and inequality are undergirded by attitudes and thus have a cultural foundation. First, some amount of public support is needed to sustain those policies and institutions that increase inequality (e.g., upper-class tax cuts) or reduce it (e.g., minimum wage laws), such accountability of course being especially important in democratic societies. Second, public attitudes can also generate inequality quite independently of their effects on formal policy, most obviously in the form of employer discrimination (at the point of hiring, promoting, or firing), but also through class, race, and gender differences in attitudes toward work and education.

Opinions about inequality and inequality policy

Is the ongoing increase in executive compensation and other forms of inequality regarded as acceptable by most people? Is inequality understood to be a "necessary evil" that promotes economic striving and activity? Is there much public support for affirmative action, antidiscrimination law, and other policies intended to reduce racial, gender, and other inequalities? Would there be much support for more aggressive measures? Does a college education tend to increase support for more aggressive anti-poverty and anti-inequality programs?

Class differences in attitudes and values

To what extent, if at all, are there class-based variations in orientations toward work and the value of education? Are these variations narrowing or widening? Are class differences in college attendance attributable mainly to differences in the costs and benefits of education? Or are such differences in college attendance partly cultural in their sources?

"When the rich wage war it is the poor who die." - Jean-Paul Sartre

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