Rising Income Inequality and Declining Social Cohesion in Europe

Friday, 3 July 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
TW2.1.04 (Tower Two)
Herman van de Werfhorst, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands
•Are more unequal societies less cohesive?
•Social cohesion: integration into intermediary groups. Sociology as a discipline started with studying the maintenance of social order in rapidly changing (industrializing) societies. Are we witnessing another watershed with the emergence of post-industrial neo-liberal societies?
•Despite the “paradox of cohesion” it is important to understand whether rising inequalities are associated to decreasing levels of cohesion.
•Indicators of cohesive societies: high trust, equality in life satisfaction, civic engagement, similar levels of political participation across social groups. 
Why would inequality affect societal outcomes?
•Neo-materialist explanation: resources at individual/household level, infrastructure, state-level provisions.
•Psychosocial explanation: reduction of social trust, increased levels of stress, increased emphasis on status.
Analyisis of ESS 2002-2010
•Variation in income inequality between countries and between time periods within countries.
•Is income inequality predictive of social cohesion outcomes?
•Means and variation across social status groups
•Add country and time “fixed effects”
–Controls for all stable country-specific variation (e.g. culture, history, institutions)
–Controls for overall trend across countries.
•What remains is the covariance between changing income inequality and changing outcome variables (holding constant for changing GDP, church attendance, gender, age, age2, education).
•Interaction effect of Gini with occupational status (ISEI)
•Clear association between income inequality and decline of social cohesion (lower trust, greater inequalities in happiness).
•Cohesion goes down more steeply in societies where income inequality has risen more strongly.
•Some evidence of status concerns explanation