Social Justice Research

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 83–100 | Cite as

Public Beliefs in the Causes of Wealth and Poverty and Legitimization of Inequalities in Russia and Estonia

  • Svetlana Stephenson


The article analyzes the attributions of the causes of poverty and wealth in Russia and Estonia in 1991 and 1996 and their determinants. Among the latter are the perceived actual justice of the society, the perceived size of the middle class, and the personal position in the system of inequalities. Despite the economic hardships and a rise in inequalities in both countries, individualistic explanations of wealth and poverty have increased over the 5 years between the surveys. At the same time respondents in both countries demonstrated a growing awareness of the importance of starting positions and connections to achieve wealth. The perceived middle class has a significant effect on attributions of poverty but not on wealth. Russians in Estonia have a particular bias against wealth, whereas non-Russians in Russia are more likely to justify wealth on the basis of individual merit. Explanations of poverty and wealth in Estonia are more rooted in the factors of socialization (age, education, and gender), whereas in Russia they are more rooted in the changes in the family financial circumstances between 1991 and 1996. There was a general increase in support for government intervention in distribution in both countries.

transformation research comparative social research political legitimization explaining poverty and wealth 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Svetlana Stephenson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Applied Social StudiesUniversity of LutonLutonUK

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