To Increase Equality Tell People the Rich Don’t Have to Work


The rich keep getting richer because we think they work for it. The thing is, they don’t work for their wealth that separates the wealthy from everyone else. What allows the rich to keep increasing their wealth is capital gains instead of money earned though labour. Most of us have to work to ensure we can pay rent and buy food; however, people born into wealth don’t need to work nearly as much since they can earn money from money. If we want a more equitable society where everyone needs to work to get wealthy then we need to tell people that the rich don’t need to work.

In this paper, Oscar Barrera-Rodriguez and Emmanuel Chávez examine the impact of providing information on the source of income of the top 1% earners on attitudes towards this group. Based on a randomized online survey of 2000 French respondents, they find that:

  • Simply presenting information about the amount of money the rich make is insufficient to change attitudes toward top earners.
  • Information about other aspects of income at the top, especially the sources of income (capital versus labor), does produce a shift.
  • Individuals most responsive to the treatments vote for left-wing candidates and have egalitarian notions of justice.

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