POLPAN Seminar: Status, fairness, and legitimacy of inequality. Competing hypotheses and proposed empirical test

On February 4th Dr. Kinga Wysieńska and Dr. Zbigniew Karpiński presented: ‘Status, fairness, and legitimacy of inequality. Competing hypotheses and proposed empirical test’.


The objective of our theoretical and empirical work is to build and test a model describing and predicting the conditions under which the unequal distribution of rewards between members of socially valued categories, such as genders, will be perceived as just and legitimate. The conditions that we predict will be relevant are status consistency or inconsistency between gender on the one hand, and, on the other, the following characteristics: (a) the occupational status, (b) years of experience, and (c) educational level. We propose that the interplay between the membership in a particular social category, which determines performance and reward expectations for members of those categories, and specific task abilities required to perform given occupation will produce different perceptions of just rewards for persons belonging to different social categories. In other words, it will be the consistency or inconsistency between gender and occupational status that will influence the level of legitimacy of inequality, and the major argument that we advance is that there will be higher acceptance of unequal distribution of rewards between women and men in top level occupations (status inconsistency) and lower level of acceptance of inequalities in bottom and medium level occupations (status consistency).

To achieve the aforementioned objective, we propose to integrate four theories, which are the core of an Expectation States research program: the status characteristics theory (Berger and Webster 2006); double standards theory (Foschi 2013); reward expectations theory (Berger et al. 1985); and the status legitimation theory (Berger et al. 1998). We will also use concepts stemming from social identity (Hogg and Abrams 1988) and systems justification (Jost et al. 2004) theories to provide a set of competing hypotheses to demonstrate that the proposed model has more explanatory power and allows for more precise predictions and detailed account of conditions under which unequal distribution of rewards is perceived as just and becomes legitimized.
In order to test our hypotheses, we will use a vignette design. A vignette is a description of some fictitious entity, such as a person, family, group, organization, or event, in terms of a number of characteristics of interest. In the study of justice of earnings, the entity in question is a full-time employee and the characteristics of interest will include gender, age, education, and occupation.

Presentation (PDF)