Case Study

Tactics to Reducing Inequality


For decades, the US has experienced staggering growth in wealth inequality. A large portion of Americans wish there were less inequality. What can motivate people to take action in addressing this?


We predicted that asking people to think about gifts they would like to leave for future generations would elicit a sense of responsibility to posterity and thus motivate support for an action favoring more fair wealth distribution (such as a donation to an organization working to reduce inequality).

We split participants from Amazon Mechanical Turk (a crowdsourcing Internet marketplace) into the control condition and the treatment condition. In the first stage, participants in the treatment condition were asked to think about five qualities, skills, or gifts that they hoped future generations would remember them for and how they will have a positive impact on other people (while those in the control condition did not). Next, participants in both conditions read a paragraph describing a non-governmental organization whose aim is to reduce wealth inequality and advance economic and social fairness. After reading the description, participants were asked to imagine what percentage of their day’s wage they would be willing to donate from 0% to 100%.


willingness to donate experiment | Common cents lab

Those in the treatment condition indicated willingness to donate a higher percentage of their wage (~20%) than those in the control condition (10%).

Why it matters

Thinking about the future and may increase motivation to make sacrifices to move toward a more equal wealth distribution. Since previous research has shown that most Americans believe there is currently too much wealth inequality, this finding is promising.