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KDI - Korea Development Institute

KDI - Korea Development Institute



Research Monograph Who is the Middle Class in Korea? January 22, 2024


Series No. 2024-01

Research Monograph KOR Who is the Middle Class in Korea? #Welfare Policy #Poverty, Income Redistribution
DOI P-ISBN979-11-5932-850-3 E-ISBN979-11-5932-864-0

January 22, 2024

  • 프로필
    Soo Kyeong Hwang
  • KDI
    LEE, Changkeun
This study delves into significant discrepancies between the objective and subjective middle classes in Korea, potentially prompting a diverse range of grievances from different economic groups in middle-class discourse. It emphasizes the necessity of examining the multi-layered nature of the so-called "subjective middle class" and its impact on the discourse, together with the causes of such discrepancies and the various challenges that may arise.

The study employs an independent survey to gauge Koreans' class perceptions through two web-based panel surveys. The first survey, conducted in May 2023, queries participants on their objective income and asset levels, subjective class affiliation, satisfaction with living standards and prospects for upward mobility, perceptions of income distribution and inequality, and views on socioeconomic policies. It aims to analyze whether a systematic downward bias exists in self-assessment of one's position in income distribution, patterns of bias and their causes, and potential distortions such bias can cause in policy attitudes.

The subsequent survey, conducted in September 2023, incorporates an experimental component to observe the effects of information on social perception and policy attitudes. It identifies participants' objective class positions using data from the first survey and then shares this information with them. By randomly assigning participants to two groups and providing exact class standings on income distribution to only one group, this study enables an empirical analysis of differences in attitudes toward various social policies, including middle-class awareness and support for redistribution policies, between the feedback-receiving group (treatment group) and the group without feedback (non-treatment group).

The empirical analysis in this research draws from these surveys, with Chapters 2 and 3 based on the first survey (N=3,434) and Chapters 4 and 5 on the second (N=2,000). This report is organized as follows. Chapter 1 presents the necessity and direction of middle-class research, focusing on the concept of the middle class and discussions surrounding the middle-class crisis. Chapter 2 reviews previous studies on objective-subjective class inconsistency, conducts international comparisons using available data, and explores the determinants of subjective class consciousness among Koreans. Chapter 3 compares perceptions of class inequality and policy attitudes on various issues by reclassifying the category of the "socio-economic class" in consideration of the multi-layered nature of the middle class in Korea. Chapter 4 examines the changes after correcting perception biases through objective class information based on the experimentally designed results of the second survey. Chapter 5 assesses the varied cognitive structures and policy preferences within the multi-layered structure of the Korean middle class and examines whether this may lead to policy distortion in the context of discussions on the privileged middle class or elite hereditary succession. Finally, Chapter 6 summarizes the findings and discusses their implications.
요 약

제1장 서론: 중산층 개념과 위기론에 대하여(황수경)
 제1절 중산층의 개념
 제2절 한국의 중산층은 위기인가?
 제3절 ‘중산층 위기론’에 대한 가설적 탐색
 제4절 남은 연구 주제

제2장 객관적-주관적 계층 불일치와 주관적 중산층(황수경)
 제1절 문제 제기
 제2절 객관적-주관적 계층 불일치에 관한 논의
 제3절 객관적-주관적 계층 불일치의 국제비교
 제4절 한국인의 객관적-주관적 계층 불일치
 제5절 한국인의 주관적 계층의식의 결정요인
 제6절 소 결

제3장 한국 중산층의 다층화(황수경)
 제1절 ‘사회경제 계층’의 재구성
 제2절 사회경제 계층별 주요 특성
 제3절 계층 인식과 불평등 인식
 제4절 사회경제적 인식 및 정책 태도
 제5절 소 결

제4장 계층 인식 및 재분배 선호에 대한 정보 효과 실험의 실증분석(황수경)
 제1절 머리말
 제2절 선행연구
 제3절 본 연구의 실험 설계
 제4절 분석 결과
 제5절 소 결

제5장 중산층의 가치 및 정책 선호: 특권 중산층/능력주의 담론에 대한 실증적 검토(이창근)
 제1절 머리말
 제2절 특권 중산층 담론에 대한 경제학적 검토
 제3절 한국의 중산층 분화: 심리적 비상층과 취약 중산층은 어떤 사람들인가?
 제4절 한국 중산층의 정책 선호
 제5절 소 결

제6장 결론 및 시사점(황수경/이창근)
 제1절 분석 결과의 요약
 제2절 정책 시사점

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