Does Economic Inequality Matter for Nationalism?
This chapter answers two research questions. First, what is the multi-country empirical evidence on the relationship between citizens’ feelings of patriotism toward their country, controlling for other determinants of nationalism? Second, to what extent is the empirical finding applicable to the case of China? We first review existing theories on the relationship between economic inequality and nationalism. We then estimate the partial effect of a country’s economic inequality on nationalistic sentiments among its citizens using a 20-country dataset from 1990 to 2014 to assess the validity of those theories. Finally, we examine recent developments in China’s income inequality and the degree of Chinese people’s national sentiments to assess the applicability of existing theories in the case of China. On balance we find that either the Chinese government has not attempted to promote nationalism, or its attempt has not been effective in promoting nationalism to overpower the negative effect of income inequality on nationalism.
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