Why are some countries rich and others poor? development and validation of the attributions for Cross-Country Inequality Scale (ACIS)

Michela Vezzoli, Roberta Rosa Valtorta, Attila Gáspár, Carmen Cervone, Federica Durante, Anne Maass, Caterina Suitner

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Understanding lay theories on the causes of economic inequality is the first step to comprehending why people tolerate, justify, or react against it. Accordingly, this paper aims to develop and validate with two cross-sectional studies the Attributions for Cross-Country Inequality Scale (ACIS), which assesses how people explain cross-country economic inequality–namely, the uneven distribution of income and wealth between poor and rich countries. After selecting and adapting items from existing scales of attributions for poverty and wealth, in Study 1, we tested the factorial structure of this initial pool of items in three countries with different levels of economic development and inequality, namely, Italy (n = 246), the UK (n = 248), and South Africa (n = 228). Three causal dimensions emerged from the Exploratory Factor Analysis: “rich countries” (blaming the systematic advantage of and exploitation by rich countries), “poor countries” (blaming the dispositional inadequacy and faults of poor countries), and “fate” (blaming destiny and luck). The retained items were administered in Study 2 to three new samples from Italy (n = 239), the UK (n = 249), and South Africa (n = 248). Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) corroborated the factorial structure of the ACIS, and Multi-Group CFA supported configural and metric invariances of the scale across countries. In addition, we show internal consistency and construct validity of the scale: the scale correlates with relevant constructs (e.g., beliefs about cross-country inequality and ideological orientation) and attitudes toward relevant policies related to international redistribution and migration. Overall, the scale is a valid instrument to assess causal attribution for cross-national inequality and is reliable across countries. By focusing on resource distribution from an international perspective, this scale will allow researchers to broaden the discussion on economic inequality to a global level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0298222
JournalPloS one
Issue number2 FEBRUARY
StatePublished - Feb 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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