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Wealth Inequality in America

Politizane | 6:25


There's a chart I saw recently that I can't get out of my head. A Harvard business professor and economist asked more than 5,000 Americans how they thought wealth was distributed in the United States. This is what they said. They thought it was dividing the country into five rough groups of the top, bottom, and middle three 20% groups.

They asked people how they thought the wealth in this country was divided. Then he asked them what they thought was the ideal distribution and 92. That's at least nine out of 10 of them said it should be more like this. In other words, more equitable than they think it is. Now, that fact is telling, admittedly, the notion that most Americans know that the system is already skewed unfairly.

But what's most interesting to me is the reality compared to our perception, the ideal is as far removed from our perception of reality. As the actual distribution is from what we think exists in this country. So ignore the ideal for a moment. Here's what we think it is again, and here is the actual distribution shockingly skewed.

Not only do the bottom 20% and the next 20%, the bottom 40% of Americans barely have any of the wealth. I mean, it's hard to even see them on the. But the top 1% has more of the country's wealth than nine out of 10 Americans believe the entire top 20% should have mind blowing. But let's look at it another way because I find this chart kind of difficult to wrap my head around.

Instead, let's reduce the 311 million Americans to just a representative. 100 people. Make it simple. Here they are. Teachers, coaches, firefighters, construction workers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, some investment bankers, a ceo, maybe a celebrity or two. Now let's line 'em up according to their wealth. Poorest people on the left, wealthiest on the.

Just a steady row of folks based on their net worth. We'll color code them like we did before, based on which 20% quintile they fall into. Now, let's reduce the total wealth of the United States, which was roughly 54 trillion in 2009. To this symbolic pile of cash and let's distribute it among our 100 Americans.

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