Sociologist at Harvard University


Financial Times

Psychology of wealth: Do rich people deserve to be rich?
Financial Times, June 19, 2019

“Here’s a topical question. Do rich people deserve to be rich? If so, how rich? You might think this is worth asking because concern about inequality is growing everywhere. But actually, this is not true. Although inequality is growing in many western countries, concern about it is not. In fact, according to new research by Jonathan Mijs, a sociologist at the International Inequalities Institute at the London School of Economics, inequality and belief in meritocracy may go hand in hand. The more unequal a society, the more likely people are to believe the rich have earned it..” Read more.

Why you don't care about inequality
TEDx London 2019: Beyond Borders

“Ours is a deeply unequal society. The level of income inequality today we haven’t seen since the Great Depression of the 1920s and 30s. In recent decades, economic growth has been captured by a small segment of society, whose fortunes have grown at a much faster pace than the rest of us. To the point where the top 10 percent today takes in a third of all income and two-thirds of all wealth. Now, this dramatic rise in inequality has not gone unnoticed. What is striking however is how despite all the attention, people just aren’t that worried about inequality.” Click for video.


The US shows the unequal world we are heading for – and we don’t seem to care
LSE American Politics and policy blog, May 28, 2019

“Income inequality is on the rise, a fact which many academics and commentators suggest is an important part of the election of populist figures like Donald Trump. And yet, studies show that people are actually becoming less concerned about inequality as it increases. In new research, Jonathan Mijs describes how inequality has reshaped the social landscape and how, as a result, many people are unaware of inequality’s true extent and believe that society is meritocratic – meaning that they feel that inequality is people’s own fault for not working hard enough.” Read more.

Dat mensen nu ageren tegen islam is arbitrair
De Kanttekening, May 27, 2019

"Het zijn niet zozeer slechte economische omstandigheden of zorgen hierover die mensen naar populistisch-rechts drijven, stelt socioloog Jonathan Mijs (London School of Economics). Nee: het is de vermarkting van de maatschappij, de toenemende ongelijkheid en de daaruit ontstane segregatie van leefwerelden, die een ‘meritocratische afrekening’ met minderheden teweegbrengt. ‘Om hun eigenwaarde hoog te houden, gaan slechtverdienende blanke Nederlanders zich verheven voelen boven nieuwe Nederlanders.’" Read more.

De Kanttekening

Washington Post

The radical right’s rise in Europe isn’t fueled by economic grievances
Washington Post, The Monkey Cage, May 24, 2019

"Will populist parties gain ground during this week’s European Parliament elections? Radical right-wing parties are polling well, but how will they fare now that the economy is picking up in Europe? Their success in the elections is a test of the conventional wisdom that economic crisis breeds radical politics. Our research gives reason for doubt." Read more.

Virtual roundtable on fairness in college admissions
Public Books, March 22, 2019

"The college admissions scandal exposed criminal and unethical actions that undermine the promise of the American university system. To get to the root of the crisis, this roundtable discussion—curated by Public Books and JSTOR Daily—asks scholars to go back to the drawing board and answer the most basic of questions: What would constitute a fair college admissions process? As sociologist Jonathan Mijs argues, opportunities for demonstrating merit are far from equally distributed. In the United States, where racial residential segregation and local control of schools combine to disproportionately relegate nonwhite (especially black) students to underfunded schools, the claim that anything approaching equal opportunity exists is laughable." Read more.

Public Books

Work in Progress

How inequality leads to its own legitimization
Work In Progress blog, American Sociological Association, March 12, 2019

“Research has demonstrated a dramatic rise of income inequality in the West. Today, across advanced capitalist countries, the top ten percent of households take home about a third of all income and own two-thirds of all wealth. Despite what scholars, journalists and some politicians consider a worrying trend, there is no evidence that people have grown more concerned about inequality. In fact, citizens of more unequal societies are less concerned than those in egalitarian societies. How to make sense of this paradox?" Read more.

Why people underestimate the problem of inequality
Financial Times, March 3, 2019

"The UK is no exception to rising inequality. Income inequality is on the rise across the western world, but most people don’t seem to care. My research, published this month in the Socio-Economic Review, is an analysis of 25 years of data on income inequality across 23 western countries including the US and Europe. It finds that, paradoxically, the higher inequality rises, the more people believe that economic success is based on merit. People look at success as the result of hard work and talent and downplay the role of family wealth and connections. Citizens in some of the most unequal countries, like the US, believe most strongly in meritocracy." Read more.

Financial Times

Washington Post

Ivanka Trump comes out against all guaranteed jobs except her own
The Washington Post, February 26

"Jonathan Mijs, an assistant professorial research fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science, recently published a paper documenting that in societies with high rates of income inequality, people are more likely to believe success is a result of individual hard work and effort than those living in societies with a more equal distribution of financial resources. That may sound counterintuitive. But as inequality increases, people are less likely to meet and mix with people outside their cohort. “Money becomes more than a figure on a person’s bank account; it defines where people live, work, who their friends are and with whom they form a family,” Mijs tells me. “From their increasingly insular social circles, the world looks more equal and more meritocratic than it really is. When your friends, neighbors and colleagues share the same set of privileges or disadvantages, you no longer notice the structural forces holding you back or pushing you ahead." Read more.

The gulf between the rich and poor is widening – we just can't see it
The Independent, January 28, 2019

"Inequality is on the rise in Britain, as it is across most of the West. Since the 1980s, income gains have been concentrated among the top 1 per cent, whose economic fortunes have grown at a much faster pace than the rest of society. The top 10 per cent of households now take home about a third of all income, and own two-thirds of all wealth. This widening gap between the haves and have-nots increasingly preoccupies scholars and journalists, and policymakers, all the way to the World Economic Forum in Davos. Curiously, however, the evidence suggests that few citizens share these concerns. In fact, people in some of the most unequal societies seem to be the least worried about inequality." Read more.

The Independent

The Guardian

How the right tricked people into supporting rampant inequality
The Guardian, January 24, 2019

"Those on the progressive left have been perplexed that rising social injustice hasn’t led to much sign of the oppressed rising up, either at the ballot box or through more physical acts of protest. New research out on Wednesday suggests some explanations – though these will be of precious little comfort. Looking at surveys across 23 western countries since the 1980s, Dr Jonathan Mijs of the London School of Economics International Inequalities Institute monitors how, as countries become less equal, attitudes of the majority shift in the wrong direction." Read more.

Why don’t we care about growing inequality?
Center for Labour and Social Studies blog, November 11, 2018

"We are witnessing a surge in news reporting and scholarly interest in inequality. Most people now know some stylized facts about the unequal distribution of income and wealth. Throughout the West, the top 10 percent takes home a third of all income and owns two-thirds of all wealth. The United Kingdom is no exception. So, how has the other 90 percent responded? What's striking is the absence of large-scale public unrest, mass demonstrations, revolt. For most people, inequality is business as usual." Read more.


The Conversation

Inequality is getting worse, but fewer people than ever are aware of it
The Conversation, May 2, 2017

"Inequality in America is on the rise. Income gains since the 1980s have been concentrated at the top. The top 10 percent today take home 30 percent of all income, and control over three-quarters of all wealth. We have returned to the level of income inequality that marked the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s. Who gets what in America continues to be impacted by a person’s race, gender and family resources. What’s striking, however, is how little people seem to notice." Read more.


Institutionalizing prison reentry
Contexts, March 23, 2017

"About 640,000 incarcerated people are released back into communities each year, and between 1995 and 2010 there was a 240% increase in the number of non-profit organizations providing prison re-entry services. The study of prison re-entry often focuses on how prisons prepare people for life “on the outside” or on the specific elements that influence the likelihood of recidivism. Jonathan Mijs, in a recent Sociological Forum article, studies this institutionalizing of the reentry process and how non-profits function as a link between the penal and welfare state." Read more.

Education Week

PISA, Internalizing Failure, and Barriers to Deeper Learning
Education Week, February 6, 2017

"World rankings like the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) have emerged as the litmus test on how schools are and are not helping students succeed. Politicians, educators, and specialists dwell on American students' laggard position or Singapore's success. But what do students think of their own performance? Comparing 128,000 students across 24 nations in Asia, Europe, and North America revealed that students' responses were only loosely connected to the country in which a student lives, their school's resources, or that student's social background. Rather, these students' attributions of failure show a close correlation to the way a student's school is organized." Read more.

European data suggests the gig economy helped create Trump, Sanders
The Conversation, May 17, 2016

"Politicians and pundits in America wonder where the rip-roaring popularity of protest candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders originated. The answer may lie in Europe. Trump and Sanders, in defying conventional political expectations, follow a long list of European populist leaders. Regarding the rise of Trump and Sanders as extraordinary events risks mystifying them. It also fails to acknowledge the powerful forces these politicians thrive on. Looking more closely at the rise of populism in Europe over the past two decades gives us a better understanding of today’s American politics and the forces driving protest politics’ success." Read more.

The Conversation