Explanations for Economic Outcomes
In this chapter, the authors consider views on the causes of wealth, since many potential consequences flow from the perception of wealth as due to individual effort and ability or as limited to a privileged few by structural barriers. Individuals' own strivings for economic advancement as well as aspects of their views on public policy may be influenced by beliefs about the causes and potential availability of wealth. The authors look at views of the causes of the economic position of Americans in general, neither the poor nor the rich specifically, and at each respondent's views of the causes of his or her own personal position. They describe the effects of potential challenges to individualism, derived from other explanations for economic position and beliefs about opportunity. The authors examine group differences in beliefs in individualism and other perceptions of the causes of achievement.