Inequality undermines social solidarity

People living in more unequal countries show less social solidarity towards others, a new study has suggested.

The study investigated the relationship between income inequality and solidarity (defined as a willingness to contribute to the welfare of other people) in 26 European countries, using data from the 1999 European Values Study.

Key points

  • Income inequality tends to be negatively related to solidarity. This is true for people living in both low- and high-income households.
  • But the relationship is not very strong, possibly explained by the fact that different motives (caring and self-interested) push people in different directions. Other studies have shown that income inequality should increase the direct financial incentive to support redistribution.
  • In general, solidarity is higher towards people with whom there is less social distance – sick and disabled people, older people and community members. Solidarity is much lower towards immigrants.
  • Those expressing more solidarity include women, older people, married people, religious people, and also people who are more educated and wealthy.
  • There is a possibility the direction of causality is reversed. It may be that in countries where people feel less solidarity towards their fellows, inequality is more likely to emerge and persist.

Source: Marii Paskov and Caroline Dewilde, Income Inequality and Solidarity in Europe, Discussion Paper 33, GINI Project (European Commission)
Link: Paper