Our Feelings About Inequality: It’s Complicated

How much do Americans care about rising income inequality? Surveys send mixed signals.

In a poll released last year by the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Americans agreed that there were “strong conflicts between the rich and poor” — up substantially from when the question was asked in 2009 — but in a Gallup poll taken at the height of Occupy Wall Street, in the fall of 2011, reducing the income and wealth gap was low on respondents’ list of priorities for government action.

It seems like a paradox: Americans are increasingly worried about the gap between rich and poor, but are hesitant to have the government do anything about it.

An experiment we conducted, described in more detail below, may help explain the contradiction. [cont.]

Ilyana Kuziemko (Columbia) & Stefanie Stantcheva (MIT), NYT