If leftists support “political programmes that seek to eliminate status differences or moderate their impact” then the best way to reduce the left’s opposition to free markets would be to sever the link between income and status.
But how strong is the existing link between income and status? This issue can be approached from two directions. We can ask people what weight they give income when assessing the status of another person – I am not aware of research on this, though I’m sure somebody must have put the question in a survey. We can also ask people how they perceive their own status and compare that self-assessment with their income. A question in the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2005 asks:
In our society there are groups which tend to be towards the top and groups which tend to be towards the bottom. Below is a scale that runs from the top to the bottom where the top is 10 and the bottom is 1. Where would you put yourself on this scale?
Overall, whatever others may think of them, most people do not think they are on the ‘bottom’ of society. Only 2% rate themselves as ‘1’ and only 18% below 5. If we thought of society as having 10 status deciles, 40% should rate themselves below 5. Consistent with an egalitarian ethos, few rate themselves too highly either. Only 3% of respondents put themselves in the top 20% of society.
Low income is, however, associated with lower status. Continue reading “Who thinks that they have low status?”