"With the genuine rise in wealth inequality over the past several decades, and the popular media's intensive coverage of this issue, we wondered how income inequality is perceived by the average American," says psychological scientist John Chambers of St. Louis University.
Chambers, along with Lawton Swan and Martin Heesacker of the University of Florida, wanted to resolve conflicting findings in previous research about whether people are able to accurately assess income and income inequality.
Over 500 participants responded to the researchers' online survey, answering questions about their political leanings, their estimates of annual incomes for different racial groups in America, and their perceptions about overall income inequality in the United States.
Participants tended to overestimate the number of American households that are just scraping by, believing that, on average, about 48% of households make less than $35,000 a year. Census data show that only 37% actually fall under that number. By contrast, participants underestimated the number of American households that are faring well. They believed that, on average, only about 23% of households make $75,000 or greater a year, when census data show that 32% actually make more than that number.
In addition, participants believed the income inequality gap was much larger than it actually is, estimating that the richest 20% makes about 31 times more than the poorest 20%. While the income gap has grown in the past 40 years, the reality is that the top 20% makes about 15.5 times more than the bottom 20% – half the size of the gap estimated by participants.
The researchers discovered that this income gap overestimation was due primarily to inflated perceptions regarding the richest 20%. In 2010, census data show that the richest 20% had average incomes of about $169,000, yet participants believed it was closer to $2,000,000.
Interestingly, these trends were exaggerated among self-identified liberals, who tended to overestimate the size and the growth rate of the income inequality gap, to a greater extent than their conservative counterparts.
"People's attitudes towards public policy are shaped by their perceptions of current economic conditions," Chambers explains. "The perceptions, and misperceptions, we documented may have important implications for public policy debates, such as support or opposition to wealth redistribution policies, minimum wage standards, and social welfare programs."
And the researchers were particularly surprised how pervasive these effects were:
"Almost all of our study participants – regardless of their socio-economic status, political orientation, racial ethnicity, education level, age, and gender – grossly underestimated Americans' average household incomes and overestimated the level of income inequality," Chambers says. "Despite their very diverse backgrounds and personal circumstances, most of our study participants perceived incomes and income inequality far too pessimistically."
For more information about this study, please contact: John R. Chambers at email@example.com.
The article abstract can be found online: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/12/06/0956797613504965.abstract
The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "Better Off Than We Know: Distorted Perceptions of Incomes and Income Inequality in America" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anna Mikulak | EurekAlert!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy