Inequality and personal responsibility: The nature of inequality acceptance

Inequality and personal responsibility: The nature of inequality acceptance

Project manager: Bertil Tungodden

Project duration:  01.08.2016 - 31.07.2021

Project details:

The project will address the following fundamental research question: What explains inequality acceptance? This question will be studied from different perspectives and by the use of a number of empirical approaches, including novel incentivized experiments on nationally representative populations, lab experiments, survey experiments, and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). It is a truly multidisciplinary project that aims at groundbreaking research. It will combine insights from economics, psychology, political theory, and philosophy, and combine structural and non-parametric empirical analysis with theory development.

The first part of the project provides a unique international study of the nature of inequality acceptance. It will greatly improve our understanding of what causes inequality acceptance, how it varies across contexts, and how it interacts with political and socio-economic institutions.

The second part of the project focuses on how the influential idea of personal responsibility shapes inequality acceptance, and addresses a novel and important set of issues that have not yet been studied in the social sciences. It considers how personal responsibility is and should be understood when there is an unlevel playing field and when the consequences of one's choices also depend on the choices of other individuals, such as in competition and cooperation; it provides the first study of how nudging policies, which have become increasingly prominent across the world, shape our understanding of personal responsibility; and, finally, it provides a novel study of the neurological basis for inequality acceptance.

Taken together, the project constitutes a novel and comprehensive study that will push the research frontier on what explains inequality acceptance and will provide new important insights that can greatly improve our understanding of human behavior, guide policymaking, and inform more broadly the inequality debate.


  • Push the research frontier and our understanding of what explains inequality acceptance.
  • Conduct a unique international incentivized experiment on inequality acceptance with nationally representative populations in 60 countries involving 60 000 decision makers.
  • Conduct a series of lab experiments, incentivised experiments with nationally representative populations, survey experiments, and fMRI-experiments to further our understanding of how the idea of personal responsibility shapes inequality acceptance.
  • Publish a series of papers in top journals in economics, other social sciences, and general sciences.
  • Establish The FAIR Conference as an internationally leading meeting place for researchers in this field.
  • Strengthen the position of The Choice Lab as a leading research group in behavioral and experimental economics in Europe.
  • Train and facilitate the advancement of promising young scholars, including establishing The FAIR Workshop for Young Scholars.

Core research team

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