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Income inequality - making sense of British social attitudes, 2009-2011

This study, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (award reference RES-062-23-1671), aims to make sense of complexity and ambiguity in public attitudes to income inequality. Income inequality is now a marked feature of the socioeconomic structure of the UK, and is the subject of increasing attention. A greater understanding of public attitudes is critical to debates about policy responses to inequality. This study is building on Orton and Rowlingson’s (2007) literature review on this subject. That review found that a large and enduring majority of the public consider income inequality is too great, but there is much less of a consensus about what government should do, if anything, about it. This puzzle is being addressed by inclusion of a specific module on attitudes to income inequality in the 2009 British Social Attitudes Survey.

Research report/publications

Rowlingson, K., Orton, M. and Taylor. E. (2010) ‘Do we still care about inequality?’ in A. Park, J. Curtice, E. Clery and C. Bryson (eds.) British Social Attitudes – the 27th Report – Exploring Labour’s Legacy, London: Sage Publications pp. 1-28.

Related IER research and publications

Public Attitudes to Inequality and Wealth in the UK

Orton, M. and Rowlingson, K. (2007) Public attitudes to economic inequality York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Orton, M. and Rowlingson, K. (2007) ‘A problem of riches: towards a new social policy research agenda on the distribution of economic resources’ Journal of Social Policy 36 (1) 59-78.

Orton, M. (2006) ‘Wealth, citizenship and responsibility: the views of better off citizens in the UK’ Citizenship Studies 10 (2) 251-265.

Orton, M. (2008) ‘State approaches to wealth’ in T. Ridge and S. Wright (eds.) Understanding inequality, poverty and wealth Bristol: The Policy Press, pp 259-282.

Funder: ESRC

Project duration: January 2009 - September 2011


Principal IER Investigator:

Michael Orton


Karen Rowlingson, University of Birmingham; and NatCen (the National Centre for Social Research)