(Mis-)Perceptions of Inequality – Health, Wealth and Income in a Comparative Perspective

Project Description

Aims and Central Research Question

The goal of this project is to (a) compare actual inequality in the distribution of material resources (income and wealth) and of a vital resource (health) with perceived and preferred levels of inequality. By doing so we (b) want to better understand why individuals over- or underestimate inequality and which norms govern ideas about ideal distributions of these resources. We finally (c) want to assess which consequences (mis-)perceptions of inequality have on individual attitudes and behaviors such as the motivation to invest in one’s human capital (education, skills, or own health) or the demand and support for policy interventions that aim to either reduce inequality “from above” or to strengthen individual responsibility and capabilities “from below”. We want to do so by analyzing data from a survey that was recently performed by the Cluster of Excellence “Center for the Advanced Study of Collective Behavior” (PIs: Britta Renner, Claudia Diehl, Harald Schupp), in a joint approach involving both Clusters.


Inequality in the distribution of resources such as wealth, income and health exist in all societies. Which extent of inequality is deemed “just” and to what degree ideal distributions are aligned with actual ones has repercussions on trust in governments and public services and the acceptance of social and economic policies. It also affects individual motivation to invest in the achievement of these resources. By now, numerous studies exist about actual and perceived inequality and about its consequences. Much less is known about the origins of disparities between actual, perceived and ideal levels of inequality. In this project we want to systematically analyze differences in perceptions of and concerns about inequality in in the distribution of health, wealth and income.


Cross-national online survey


Sociology, Psychology

Starting Date

February 2022