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The Economic OtherInequality in the American Political Imagination$
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Meghan Condon and Amber Wichowsky

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226691732

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226691909.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 26 September 2021

Why Americans Would Rather Look Down

Why Americans Would Rather Look Down

(p.155) Chapter 9 Why Americans Would Rather Look Down
The Economic Other

Meghan Condon

Amber Wichowsky

University of Chicago Press

Social psychologists have found in a variety of contexts that people use downward social comparison to protect their fragile selves and boost their egos when threatened. This chapter presents results from an experimental study that shows that economic anxiety induces a similar reaction. Given the choice, people prefer not to think about the economic other at all, but when they are induced to experience economic anxiety, many turn to downward comparison with the poor to protect their sense of self in insecure times. Drawing on survey data, the authors first document the increase in financial instability and anxiety among Americans in recent decades. They then demonstrate experimentally how economic insecurity leads Americans to turn their attention away from the wealthy and toward the poor and disadvantaged, activating racial and gender stereotypes, inflating perceptions of status, and reducing their support for redistribution.

Keywords:   social comparison, downward comparison, insecurity, ego, economic anxiety, poor, status, redistribution, insecure, class stereotypes

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