Searching for Homo Economicus: Variation in Americans’ Construals of and Attitudes toward Markets

Searching for Homo Economicus: Variation in Americans’ Construals of and Attitudes toward Markets

By
Paul DiMaggio, Amir Goldberg
European Journal of Sociology. February
21, 2018, Pages 1-39

Economic sociologists agree that economic rationality is constructed and that morality and economic interests intersect. Yet we know little about how people organize economic beliefs or judge the morality of markets. We use Relational Class Analysis to identify three subsets of respondents whose members construe economic markets in distinct ways. Subsamples display more structure than the full sample in associations among attitudes, and between attitudes and sociodemographic predictors. The economically advantaged favor market solutions in each subset, but religious and political identities, respectively, predict pro-market views uniquely in subsamples that construe markets through a religious or political lens. Results illustrate the value of distinguishing between construals and positions, and of examining population heterogeneity in opinion data. Self-interest drives faith in markets, but only when people construe markets in ways consistent with their religious and political faith.