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Soc Sci Res. 2012 Sep;41(5):1069-84. Epub 2012 Apr 10.

Societal projection: Beliefs concerning the relationship between development and inequality in China.

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1
University of Michigan, United States.

Abstract

We examine how the relationship between development and inequality at the societal level is perceived and evaluated by ordinary Chinese people. We hypothesize that because the Chinese have recently experienced rapid increases in both economic growth and social inequality, they tend to view economic development as a driving force of social inequality. To address this question, we conducted a social survey in 2006 in six Chinese provinces (n=4898). The survey data reveal that a large proportion of Chinese people have internalized a causal model in which they project high levels of inequality onto countries they view as more developed and low levels of inequality onto countries they see as less developed. However, results also show that a smaller proportion of Chinese believe in a negative relationship between development and inequality. Hence, the study reveals heterogeneity among ordinary Chinese in their perceptions of the causal relationship between development and inequality. Surprisingly, socioeconomic and demographic characteristics provide no explanatory power in explaining this heterogeneity.

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