Using survey data from the World Values Survey
(WVS) and national-level statistics from various official
sources, we explore how attitudes toward economic
inequality are shaped by economic conditions across 24
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD). Consistent with the economic self-interest thesis,
we find that where income inequality is low, those in
lower economic positions tend to be less likely than those
in higher economic positions to favor it being increased.
On the other hand, where economic resources are highly
unequally distributed, the adverse effects of inequality
climb the class ladder, resulting in the middle classes
being just as likely as the working class to favor a reduction
in inequality. Our results further suggest that people tend
to see current levels of inequality as legitimate, regardless
of their own economic position, but nonetheless desire
economic change—i.e., they would like to see inequality
reduced—if they perceive it could improve their own
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