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Abstract

Global economic inequality is increasing (Atkinson, 2015; Chin & Culotta, 2014; Dorling, 2015; Piketty, 2014; Piketty & Suez, 2014). This trend can generate frustration for people who feel they are not benefitting from economic growth. In some cases, feelings of frustration can lead to demonstrations and other forms of civic discontent. But economic protests and civic unrest can occur due to the perception of economic inequality, not only from economic inequality itself. It is therefore becoming increasingly important to understand the psychological dynamics behind responses to increases in wealth and income disparities. The larger questions addressed throughout this dissertation are to comprehend how people experience and understand economic inequality from a psychological perspective: under what conditions can and do people living in democratic nations accept inequality without engaging in democratic activities to effect social change? And under what circumstances does their tolerance turn to protest and other forms of democratic engagement and civic discontent?

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