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What do Americans know about inequality? It depends on how you ask them

Kimmo Eriksson and Brent Simpson

Judgment and Decision Making, 2012, vol. 7, issue 6, 741-745

Abstract: A recent survey of inequality (Norton and Ariely, Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 9-12) asked respondents to indicate what percent of the nation's total wealth is---and should be---controlled by richer and poorer quintiles of the U.S. population. We show that such measures lead to powerful anchoring effects that account for the otherwise remarkable findings that respondents reported perceiving, and desiring, extremely low inequality in wealth. We show that the same anchoring effects occur in other domains, namely web page popularity and school teacher salaries. We introduce logically equivalent questions about average levels of inequality that lead to more accurate responses. Finally, when we made respondents aware of the logical connection between the two measures, the majority said that typical responses to the average measures, indicating higher levels of inequality, better reflected their actual perceptions and preferences than did typical responses to percent measures.

Keywords: inequality; response bias; anchoring-and-adjustment; replication study. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2012
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