Microfoundations of Inequality

If individuals are both inherently moderately heterogeneous as the ubiquitous “bell-shaped curve” suggests and inequity-averse as laboratory experiments on anonymous small-group interactions repeatedly show, why is inequality pervasive in society?

In this project, I review social-psychological approaches to the problem of inequality. My investigation reveals that previous research had mainly focused on the maintenance and reproduction of inequality and overlooked the puzzle of its emergence. To fill this gap, I redefine the problem of inequality as a process that skews natural individual heterogeneity into extreme distributions of power, status, or rewards. Conceptualizing such a super-linear transformation allows me to identify four mechanism pathways that give rise to inequality.

The resulting paper is attached here.

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