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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Inequality and Air Rage

"Insulation! That was the ticket. That was the term Rawlie Thorpe used. ''If you want to live in New York,'' he once told Sherman, ''you've got to insulate, insulate, insulate,'' meaning insulate yourself from those people."  -  Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities

America is coming apart, socially and physically. The elites are usually safe behind velvet ropes. But sometimes the classes rub up against each other, and sparks fly.

We posit that the modern airplane is a social microcosm of class-based society, and that the increasing incidence of “air rage” can be understood through the lens of inequality. Research on inequality typically examines the effects of relatively fixed, macrostructural forms of inequality, such as socioeconomic status; we examine how temporary exposure to both physical and situational inequality, induced by the design of environments, can foster antisocial behavior. We use a complete set of all onboard air rage incidents over several years from a large, international airline to test our predictions. Physical inequality on airplanes—that is, the presence of a first class cabin—is associated with more frequent air rage incidents in economy class. Situational inequality—boarding from the front (requiring walking through the first class cabin) versus the middle of the plane—also significantly increases the odds of air rage in both economy and first class. We show that physical design that highlights inequality can trigger antisocial behavior on airplanes. More broadly, these results point to the importance of considering the design of environments—from airplanes to office layouts to stadium seating—in understanding both the form and emergence of antisocial behavior