Economic Inequality Through a Contextual Lens: Spatial Variation in Beliefs, Opinion, and Policy Support
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National-scale economic and political transformations are the backdrop for this dissertation. Income inequality has grown dramatically, and the political landscape is fractured with one rift between cities and the less urban areas that surround them. In three stand-alone chapters, I begin to address a set of question that emerge from considering national economic and political issues in local contexts. How do people perceive income inequality in the communities where they live? Is the information gleaned by individuals in their residential contexts associated with support for inequality-reducing policies? Which strategies for measuring urbanicity and economic conditions best reflect perceptual processes and other contextual mechanisms? The first chapter, “Attitudes in an Urban Context: Metropolitan Urbanicity and Support for Social Welfare Spending,” examines the association between metropolitan urbanicity and attitudes toward government welfare provision. In the second chapter, “Do Voters Respond to Local Economic Conditions? Examining Support for Raising the State Minimum Wage,” I examine whether economic conditions in local residential contexts are associated with support for citizen-initiatives to increase state minimum wage rates. In the third chapter, I highlight variation in the contextual economic characteristics that U.S. residents may encounter and explore the implications of strategies for measuring local income inequality and segregation. I then examine the associations between individuals’ perceptions of local income inequality and objectively measured contextual economic conditions in the counties where they live.
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