Case Study

Building a Better America


What is the optimal level of wealth (in)equality? Our assumptions (which are often based on ideology rather than data) affect our responses to this question.


We asked a nationally representative online panel to estimate the current distribution of wealth in the United States and to “build a better America” by constructing distributions with their ideal level of inequality.


Respondents dramatically underestimated the current level of wealth inequality. When empowered to design their ideal distribution, participants created societies with far more equality than their (incorrect) perceptions of the actual distribution. We observed a surprising level of consensus: all demographic groups—even those not usually associated with wealth redistribution such as Republicans and the wealthy—desired a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo.

Why it matters

Despite what political rhetoric suggests, we all want a more equitable distribution of wealth than the status quo. The findings from this research underscore the importance of using data in policy debates. In the polarized political landscape in which many societies operate, this research shows we actually may have more in common if we can embed our opinions in facts and move past the heated rhetoric.

More Information

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