Poverty Attributions and the Perceived Legitimacy of Income Inequality: A Comparison of East and West Germany
Though the concept of social justice is widely used in the social sciences, we know little aboutthe amount of income inequality that is perceived as just and why perceptions vary acrosssocial contexts. In this paper, we argue the ways people define the causes of poverty are relatedto how they perceive and justify existing income inequality. We examine internal and externalattributions of poverty using survey data from the 2006 International Social Justice Project(ISJP). We compare two culturally and structurally distinct regions—East and West Ger-many. The results support our hypothesis that the amount of income inequality people per-ceive as just is related to how they explain the causes of poverty, that is, internal and/or exter-nal attributions. Poverty attributions are crucial mediators and explain contextual differencesin the perceived justice of income inequality between East and West Germany.