The current chapter highlights the implications of the scars of inequality by first reviewing some common indices of economic inequality. We then discuss research on public attitudes toward inequality and examine the effects of societal-level inequities on various outcomes. Within this section, we focus on how the ever-expanding disparities between the rich and the poor undermine the health and wellbeing of citizens, as well as core components of democracy. Next, we offer a psychological explanation for why macro-level inequality is harmful, and conclude by discussing the prospects for change. Although a comprehensive review of these literatures is impossible, we provide the reader with key starting points for further exploration into the attitudinal and societal consequences of the rising gap between the wealthy and the poor.
In capitalist societies, individuals who occupy the highest positions in the economic hierarchy feature prominently in the political discourse under the moniker of the One Percent. However, little is known about how the psychology of One Percent might differ from that of the average person. Using a large, nationally representative sample in New Zealand (N = 14,650), we aimed to fill this gap examining the political attitudes and subjective wellbeing of the top one percent of the income distribution. We found that, compared to general public, the One Percent in New Zealand more strongly legitimize the political and economic systems in society, and express lower support for redistributive taxation. They also report higher life satisfaction, self-esteem and belongingness compared to everyone else. Thus, the One Percent benefit not only economically and politically from the current system, but also psychologically. Moreover, their political beliefs serve to bolster the inequality from which they benefit.
A noticeable feature of the political discourse accompanying the rise of nationalism in white‐majority countries is that white people fare worse than other ethnic groups in their societies. However, it is unclear based on the extant literature why group‐based relative deprivation (GRD) would correlate with majority‐group nationalism. Here, we propose that the psychological function of nationalism for majority‐group members lies in its ability to assuage the negative feelings arising from GRD. Accordingly, in a New Zealand national probability sample (N = 15,607), we found that GRD among whites was negatively associated with well‐being. However, we also found an opposing indirect association mediated by nationalism. GRD was associated with higher nationalism, which was in turn associated with higher well‐being. These findings suggest that endorsing beliefs about national superiority is one way a nation’s dominant ethnic group can cope with the negative psychological consequences of perceiving that their group is deprived.