In this contribution we study the determinants of how individuals assess the social fairness of a given income distribution. We propose an analytical framework distinguishing between potential impact factors related to the following fields: first fairness preferences, second beliefs on the sources of economic success and the functioning of democracy and third selfinterest. We test this framework on representative survey data for Germany for the years 1991, 2000 and 2004. Our results indicate that self-interest, beliefs and fairness preferences jointly shape fairness assessments. In addition, a number of personal characteristics are found to be important: Compared to their western fellow citizens, people born in GDR have a more critical view at social fairness. A particularly strong impact is related to the belief on the functioning of the democratic system. This points an important role of procedural fairness for the acceptance of a given distribution.


fairness preferences, economic beliefs, ALLBUS