Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton finds Americans prefer a more equal distribution of wealth.
AMERICANS HAVE A DISTORTED sense of the level of inequality in their society—but not in the direction one might expect. Associate professor of business Michael I. Norton has found that respondents to his surveys universally think that wealth is more evenly distributed in the United States than it actually is—and what’s more, respondents say they would prefer for the wealth to be still more evenly spread around.
More than 80 percent of the wealth in the United States belongs to 20 percent of the population; respondents estimated that this group held less than 60 percent of the wealth, and would in an ideal world hold about a third.
The lowest two quintiles (a group with average net worth of $2,200) control 0.2 percent and 0.1 percent of the wealth, respectively. But respondents estimated that these groups held 6 percent and 3 percent, respectively, and said they would like them hold about 15 percent and about 10 percent instead.