The psychosocial effects of economic inequality depend on its perception

Thu, 05/05/2022 - 10:32
Efectos psicosociales desigualdad económica dependen percepción

The psychosocial effects of economic inequality depend on its perception


Economic inequality has negative consequences on people's subjective well-being through status competition and social distance. However, the empirical evidence proving this idea is not unanimous


In this context, CIMCYC researchers Guillermo B. Willis, Efraín García Sánchez and Rosa Rodríguez Bailón suggest that the inconsistent findings arise because the psychological effects of economic inequality depend on the perceived inequality, and are not exclusively due to the objective inequality of each context. In other words, perceiving economic inequality would be one of the conditions for objective inequality to affect people's subjective well-being and behaviors.


In this sense, perceived economic inequality is not always related to objective inequality or subjective well-being for three reasons:

  • Unequal societies tend to be more physically and psychologically segregated, so people tend to experience less inequality than what exists around them
  • People are more influenced by signs of economic disparity in their daily life than by information about inequality to which they have access in a abstract form
  • The ideologies or beliefs that justify the system lead people to perceive more or less economic inequality than exists.


Perceived inequality is crucial for understanding how and when objective inequality influences psychological processes that affect subjective well-being and individual outcomes that promote a fairer society.



-Guillermo B. Willis: @email

-Efraín García Sánchez: @email

-Rosa Rodríguez Bailón: @email


Full reference

Willis, G. B., García-Sánchez, E., Sánchez-Rodríguez, N., García-Castro, J. D., & Rodríguez-Bailón, R. (2022). The psychosocial effects of economic inequality depend on its perception. Nature Reviews Psychology.