Polarization under rising inequality and economic decline
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Social and political polarization is an important source of conflict in many societies. Understanding its causes has become a priority of scholars across disciplines. We demonstrate that shifts in socialization strategies analogous to political polarization can arise as a locally beneficial response to both rising wealth inequality and economic decline. In many contexts, interaction with diverse out-groups confers benefits from innovation and exploration greater than those that arise from interacting exclusively with a homogeneous in-group. However, when the economic environment favors risk aversion, a strategy of seeking lower-risk in-group interactions can be important to maintaining individual solvency. Our model shows that under conditions of economic decline or increasing inequality, some members of the population benefit from adopting a risk-averse, in-group favoring strategy. Moreover, we show that such in-group polarization can spread rapidly to the whole population and persist even when the conditions that produced it have reversed.
Stewart , A J , McCarty , N & Bryson , J J 2020 , ' Polarization under rising inequality and economic decline ' , Science Advances , vol. 6 , no. 50 , eabd4201 . https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abd4201
Copyright © 2020 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works. Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY). https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution license, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
DescriptionFunding: The authors acknowledge funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency NGS2 program (grant D17AC00005 to A.J.S.) and the AXA Research Fellowship Award (to J.J.B).
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