Income inequality continues to rise across the world. Prominent scholars and practitioners have acknowledged the many adverse effects that this creates for everyone. Meanwhile, concern over the issue does not seem to be growing. This paradox has been recently observed and named ‘the paradox of inequality’. In Bulgaria, however, where the levels of income inequality are extremely high compared to the rest of the European Union and even the world, people seem to be quite aware of this issue and unusually concerned with it. In this paper, I attribute some meaning to these statistics by applying the qualitative research method of deliberative focus groups in two groups from a relatively low socioeconomic status for Bulgaria and two from a relatively high one. I expected that due to their Soviet past, Bulgarians have developed a culture of ‘shurobadzhanashtina’ (a special form of nepotism) according to which income should be earned rather than in meritocratic ways such as knowledge, skills and experience. I also expected that the different socioeconomic classes live closer together in Bulgaria than in many other countries and because of that they see the levels of income inequality as high as they are unlike in other unequal societies. Finally, I expected that since corruption is extremely high in Bulgaria, people channel a broader discontent with the system inefficiency when they complain about income inequality, which makes it look like Bulgarians are more aware of and concerned with income inequality than other countries. The group deliberations showed little support for the first two expectations but a very strong one for the latter one. While the opinions of the people differed on the first two topics both within the same socioeconomic status and between the different ones, they were more or less in consensus that the income inequality in Bulgaria is too high and that this is a problem owed to a great extent to the inefficient political system – due to both lack of competence and lack of willingness of the government to do better.

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Jonathan Mijs, Sjaak Braster
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Dimitrova, N. (2021, June 19). "We Do Mind the Gap": What Bulgarian People Think About National Income Inequality. Sociology. Retrieved from