It’s a modern American paradox. Inequality continues to worsen and Americans’ concern about it is growing, and yet public support for solutions just hasn’t kept pace. A new study finds a reason why – Americans doubt government’s ability to address the problem of inequality. The researchers—from Columbia Business School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Business School and University of California, Berkeley—surveyed more than 5,000 Americans online in 2011 and 2012. Half of the survey participants were exposed to an online tutorial about inequality and possible public remedies (e.g. estate tax, etc.). The research found that when exposed to the real facts about how much inequality has grown, skepticism about government proposals actually increases—as in, why would we trust the entity that presumably allowed this to happen be in charge of the solution? Here’s an excerpt from a New York Times piece two of the researchers wrote about this troubling but important finding:
Our research suggests that merely talking more about inequality is unlikely to change Americans’ policy preferences. Americans are already aware of inequality and are troubled by it. Proponents of greater redistribution can probably save their breath pointing out that inequality is a problem. Instead, they face what seems to be a much more difficult task: convincing them that their government is up to the task of addressing it.