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Putting Inequality in Context: Class, Public Opinion, and Representation in the United States, Christopher Ellis

Reviewed by Megan E. Hatch

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That political and income inequality is increasing is not surprising to political scientists, yet Christopher Ellis brings a unique perspective to this discussion, arguing that local contexts matter in understanding the causes and consequences of political inequality. How Americans think about inequality is mediated by their local socioeconomic and political context. Therefore, a poor person who lives in a relatively more affluent location will feel differently about government and how well represented he or she is than a poor person who lives in an area of concentrated poverty. Through an extensive literature review, surveys, quantitative analyses, and illustrative maps, Ellis challenges readers to think about the heterogeneity of inequality in the United States in Putting Inequality in Context: Class, Public Opinion, and Representation in the United States.

Ellis answers the question of why low-income people do not act politically to reduce income inequality by contending that while people may not understand national trends, they are aware of their local context. He defines local context as the lived “personal experiences–with the laws and customs of a given area, in formal and informal social interactions with people, and in observations of how people conduct themselves” (p. 13). This local context matters for political and civic p

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