Economic Inequality and Risk-Taking Behaviors

  • Jazmin L. Brown-Iannuzzi
  • Stephanie E. McKee


This chapter investigates the relationship between economic inequality and individuals’ risk-taking behaviors. We focus on risk-taking behaviors because risk is involved in numerous domains, such as gambling, investment in social interactions, health/safety, ethics, and recreation (Johnson, Wilke & Weber, 2004; Weber, Blais & Betz, 2002). Using foundational theories in social psychology, such as social comparison theory and risk sensitivity theory, we contend that economic inequality may increase risk-taking through a social comparison process. We examine support for this claim through the following framework: First, we briefly define economic inequality. Second, we discuss the relationship between inequality and risk-taking behavior. Third, we discuss why economic inequality is related to risk-taking behaviors. These findings are important because they provide a further understanding of why economic inequality may be associated with high risk and undesirable societal outcomes such as increased gambling, burglary, and robbery. Furthermore, these findings provide potential avenues for interventions.


Economic inequality Risk-taking Decision-making Social comparisons Risk sensitivity theory 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jazmin L. Brown-Iannuzzi
    • 1
  • Stephanie E. McKee
    • 1
  1. 1.University of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUnited States

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