This study examines concepts about and evaluations of the unequal distribution of personal possessions. As an exploratory study, its purpose was to map the dimensions of (a) explanations for the existence of unequal distribution and (b) judgments or evaluations of inequality. Interview questions were administered to (a) 150 Americans, 30 at each of five age levels (kindergarten, second, fifth, and eleventh grades, and 40- to 50-year-old adults), and to (b) 120 Israelis, 60 from the kibbutz and 60 from the city (in each case, 30 of kindergarten age and 30 of fifth grade age). A content analysis was performed on the interview responses. The general developmental trend in explanations for the existence of unequal distribution was for (a) both differential amounts of money and differential preferences and needs to be frequent explanations at all ages, (b) differential acquisition explanations to become increasingly active in nature (e.g., working, earning), and (c) an increasing recognition that unequal distribution is due to circumstances beyond the individual’s control. The main cultural difference in reasons given for unequal distribution occurred for fifth graders, where both Israeli groups mentioned differential work and achievement, as a major reason for the existence of inequality, whereas this reason was not frequent among Americans until older age levels. With respect to evaluations of unequal distribution, the youngest two age levels had difficulty making any evaluative statements at all, but those few they made tended to be negative. Fifth graders and high school students also judged unequal distribution more negatively than positively, and only the adults gave as many positive as negative evaluations. The principal difference between cultural groups was that a greater number of kibbutz children stated explicitly that they were indifferent to unequal distribution. There were also a number of smaller developmental and cultural differences, and the general pattern of results is interpreted as reflecting different experiential histories with inequality.

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