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The conceptualization and measurement of social polarization


The conceptualization and measurement of social polarization has received little attention from the literature. The Reynal-Querol (RQ) index, the only measure that has been used to measure religious or ethnic polarization in the literature, does not take into account alienation between individuals, a fundamental component in a polarization index. In this paper we present two axiomatically characterized social polarization indices incorporating this alienation component: the first one focuses on between group alienation only and the second one takes also into account alienation within groups. Our empirical results using data from the World Value Surveys suggest that the new indices might be good predictors of the occurrence of conflict.

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Correspondence to Iñaki Permanyer.

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I. Permanyer is a Fulbright visiting Scholar at Cornell University.

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Permanyer, I. The conceptualization and measurement of social polarization. J Econ Inequal 10, 45–74 (2012).

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  • Income polarization
  • Social polarization
  • Alienation
  • Axiomatics