Knowledge and Beliefs Concerning Development and Income Inequality in China and the United States

Arland Thornton, University of Michigan
Yu Xie, University of Michigan

This paper investigates the knowledge and beliefs of Chinese and Americans about levels and trends in societal development and income inequality. We investigate whether Chinese and Americans believe that development and inequality are positively or negatively interrelated. We examine the hypothesis that views about development and income inequality are affected by the dissemination of ideas about these topics and by trends in development and inequality in a person’s country. Our study uses three surveys in the United States and two surveys in China conducted in 2006 and 2007. People in both countries perceive a hierarchy of countries on development that is similar to the hierarchy of the United Nations Human Development Index. These data also show that there is little correspondence between views of income inequality and actual levels of inequality in countries. Both Americans and Chinese perceive positive links between development and income inequality.

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Presented in Session 146: Gender, Race and Class