The Economic Inequity Index

In order to provide an overall measure of Americans’ attitudes about economic fairness, we created

an Economic Inequity Index (EII), built as an additive scale using three questions: 4

Questions Comprising the Economic Inequity Index (EII)

1. The economic system in this country unfairly favors the wealthy

2. Business corporations do not share enough of their success with their employees

3. Hard work and determination are no guarantee of success for most people

A higher score on the Economic Inequity Index (EII) indicates that a respondent generally believes

that the economic system in the country is unfair, while a low score on the EII indicates that a respondent

generally believes that the economic playing field is fairly even. Nearly half (48%) of Americans

perceive a great amount of inequity in the economic system, scoring very high on the EII.

About one in five (21%) score high, 20% register medium scores, and 11% score low on the EII.

There are modest differences by race. Black

Americans are more likely than white Americans

to register very high scores on the EII,

believing the economic system is unfair (57%

vs. 46%, respectively). Notably, there are only

modest class differences among whites on the

EII. Women are also slightly more likely than

men to score very high on the EII scale (51%

vs. 45%, respectively).

The EII reveals a striking partisan divide. Democrats

(61%) are about twice as likely as Republicans

(33%) and members the Tea Party (29%)

to perceive a great amount of unfairness in the

economic system (very high scores on the EII).

Independents closely mirror the general population

on the scale.

FIGURE 7. The Economic Inequity Index

Very high








Source: PRRI 2015 American Values Survey.

Americans who believe the economic playing field is mostly level (low scores on the EII) are

significantly more likely than those who score very high to hold favorable views of the Tea Party


The Cronbach’s alpha for the three items used in the scale is 0.698, which indicates that they are suitable for the

inclusion in a single scale. The Economic Inequity Index was created as an additive scale from the three questions

listed above and produced a score range of 3-12. Categories were created as follows: very high (score of 10-12),

high (score of 9), medium (score of 7-8), and low (score of 3-6). The scale does not include respondents who

answered “don’t know” or refused the question, representing 2% of the sample.

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