Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis




College of Arts and Sciences

First Advisor

Brent Simpson


Previous research has shown that the rewards people receive are often taken as indirect evidence of their competence. Meanwhile, economic inequality has increased in the US over the past several generations. I propose that variation in economic inequality – the distribution of rewards in society – alters perceptions of the merits of people at different strata in society according to an assumption of equity. I use Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (mTurk) to experimentally manipulate the level of inequality (high vs low) participants perceive in an anonymized country, and I measure participants’ perceptions of merit for people in that country’s 90th and 10th income percentiles. Results show that participants expected greater differences in merit in the high inequality condition compared to the low inequality condition, and they expect that a high inequality country should demonstrate greater variation in merit than a low inequality country.

Included in

Sociology Commons