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Assessing the Effects of District-Level Segregation on Meritocratic Beliefs in Germany

Oetke, Nicole; Norkus, Maria; Goebel, Jan

In recent years, researchers have grappled with the phenomenon that public demand for redistribution has not systematically increased in response to rising inequality. Meritocratic beliefs have been suggested as an explanation for this observation, because they can help legitimize inequalities. Past research has identified local-level inequality, segregation, or diversity as important factors for how these beliefs might be formed and maintained. Different theoretical approaches have been advanced and tested to determine the direction and extent of these effects, producing mixed results. We put these theories to the test by focusing on a country in which changes in the level of inequality have indeed been met with equal changes in justice perceptions: Germany. Furthermore, we broaden the scope by focusing on local segregation between different socioeconomic status groups, rather than income inequality. To do so, we utilize geocoded individual-level data from the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP), microm data, and relevant geospatial indicators from the INKAR database. We find some indication that residential segregation of status groups and isolation of high status groups is associated with less support of meritocratic beliefs, contradicting previous work. Additionally, we find evidence of urban–rural differences in the effects of segregation.
Published in: Social Sciences, 10.3390/socsci12070376, MDPI