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Does inequality exacerbate status anxiety among higher earners? A longitudinal evaluation

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Abstract

According to The Spirit Level, inequality is bad for everyone—including people with higher incomes. That conclusion is evident also in research exploring the impact of inequality on status anxiety. But existing research on this topic is cross-sectional (and gives too much weight to statistical significance). I construct a longitudinal analysis to explore whether status anxiety increases with inequality, especially among higher earners. I use country-level averages of status anxiety for this purpose and ignore individual-level control variables, on the grounds that they are not antecedents of the focal independent variable, inequality. In contrast to previous research, I find that increases in inequality lead to lower levels of status anxiety for higher earners. People at the top appear to benefit from inequality in this sense—a finding that runs against the idea that inequality is bad for everyone.

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I. Gratification over advances of others: the tunnel effect introduced, 545. — II. Some evidence, 548.— III. Consequences for integration and revolution, 550.— IV. From gratification to indignation, 552.— V. The tunnel effect: social, historical, cultural, and institutional determinants of its strength, 553. —VI. An alternative reaction: apprehension over advances of others, 559.— VII.Concluding remarks, 560.— Mathematical appendix, 562.
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