Epistemic Closure Watch: America

Drake Bennett reports on a new study:

[Dan Ariely of Duke University and Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School] found that Americans think they live in a far more equal country than they in fact do.

On average, those surveyed estimated that the wealthiest 20percent of Americans own 59 percent of the nation's wealth; in reality the top quintile owns around 84 percent. The respondents further estimated that the poorest 20 percent own 3.7 percent, when in reality they own 0.1 percent.

And when asked to give their ideal distribution, they described, on average, a nation where the wealth distribution looks not like the U.S. but like Sweden, only more sothe wealthiest quintile would control just 32 percent of the wealth, the poorest just over 10 percent. "People dramatically underestimated the extent of wealth inequality in the U.S.," says Ariely. "And they wanted it to be even more equal."