NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Vladimir Gimpelson

Center for Labor Market Studies,
Higher School of Economics,
Moscow, Russia.

E-Mail: vladim@hse.ru

NBER Working Papers and Publications

May 2015Misperceiving Inequality
with Daniel Treisman: w21174
A vast literature suggests that economic inequality has important consequences for politics and public policy. Higher inequality is thought to increase demand for income redistribution in democracies and to discourage democratization and promote class conflict and revolution in dictatorships. Most such arguments crucially assume that ordinary people know how high inequality is, how it has been changing, and where they fit in the income distribution. Using a variety of large, cross-national surveys, we show that, in recent years, ordinary people have had little idea about such things. What they think they know is often wrong. Widespread ignorance and misperceptions emerge robustly, regardless of data source, operationalization, and measurement method. Moreover, perceived inequality—not the ...
 
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