Are you interested in economic inequality? Depends on where you live

Although several scholars and international institutions have considered high levels of economic inequality an issue for society, the populations who live in more unequal countries tend to be less concerned about it. Given the ideological connotations in the construct of people’s concerns about economic inequality, whether those who live in more unequal countries are more interested in economic inequality remains unclear. In this research, we aimed to examine whether objective economic inequality is related to individuals’ interest in the topic of economic inequality. First, we used data from the United States Census Bureau and Google Trends to examine whether the objective level of economic inequality predicted the interest of the population in searching Google for terms such as “economic inequality” and “income inequality.” Our results showed that individuals who live in more economically unequal U.S. states more often search these terms. Second, we analysed the tweets that contained the terms “economic inequality” and “income inequality” (10,118 tweets) published over 9 days and localised by U.S. state. We found that individuals who live in more economically unequal U.S. states more often post tweets about economic and income inequality. To take a closer look at the narrative around economic/income inequality, we conducted a network analysis using tweets as nodes and retweets as edges. Our results suggest that the public narrative about economic inequality via Twitter was built on three large communities. Finally, we discuss the implications of our results in relation to economic inequality consequences.