Saturday, April 30, 2011

Rising Wealth Inequality: should we care?

Rising Wealth Inequality: Should We Care? is the title of an article by Harvard university Michael Norton, published in the New York Times on March 22, 2011. It refers to the survey he coauthored with Dan Ariely of Duke University, Building A Better America: One Wealth Quintile At A Time (pdf). While today the richest 20% own 84%, a majority of Americans would prefer a distribution where the richest 20% own 32%! The survey also showed the public had no idea about the real present distribution:

"Respondents vastly underestimated the actual level of wealth inequality in the United States, believing that the wealthiest quintile held about 59% of the wealth when the actual number is closer to
84%. More interesting, respondents constructed ideal wealth distributions that were far more equitable than even their erroneously low estimates of the actual distribution, reporting a desire for the top quintile to own just 32% of the wealth." That's about the situation in Sweden.

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