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Culture & Religion

Your Neighborhood Skews Your Beliefs About Wealth Distribution

Our neighborhoods play with our perceptions about the state of wealth, influencing our opinions on wealth politics.

Our environments tend to inform our views of the world, which may not be the true way of things. Researchers have seen this generalized mindset demonstrated when populations become afflicted with strange weather events, and a new study has demonstrated how our neighborhoods can influence how we view wealth and our attitudes toward the politics of wealth distribution.   

The research was published in Psychological Science, where co-author Robbie Sutton reports his fellow researchers found evidence of how “richer and poorer people may be led, by the information available to them, to very different conclusions about how wealthy their fellow citizens are, on average, and how wealth is distributed across society.”

The wealthy and the poor live in completely different circles with little blending of the polarized socioeconomic groups. This difference leads to conflicting ideas about wealth distribution. For the wealthy, their opinions against redistribution may not out of a selfish desire to protect their own interests, researchers say, but because their opinions are based on their own subjective experiences, which informs them that there’s no need.

The researchers came to these conclusions after recruiting 600 US adults online. The researchers asked them questions relating to wealth distribution and its fairness.

They found there was a strong link between the participants’ estimated household incomes, the income of their social circle, and their attitudes toward wealth distribution. Their own income and the income of their neighborhood informed their views of the general population and, in turn, their attitudes on whether or not there should be changes to how wealth is distributed.

These findings reveal a severe information bias among the haves and have-nots, says lead author and psychological scientist Rael Dawtry of the University of Kent.

“As richer and poorer people increasingly live segregated lives, the information available to [them] becomes increasingly distorted, and increasingly different. People are, effectively, living in an informational bubble, surrounded by people with incomes like theirs but unlike many other Americans.'”

This bubble has become even more isolating in the wake of the personalized online experience from companies like Facebook and Google. Eli Pariser, author of The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, says that when these companies create a personalized web, they hinder us from the discovery of new information. He explains the detrimental effects of this process in his 2011 TED Talk. But a good way to start getting out of your own filter bubble would be to stop using search engines like Google and instead opt for using ones, like DuckDuckGo.

British entrepreneur Richard Branson does not waste his wealth, and encourages public scrutiny of how the wealthiest members of society spend their money:

Read more about the study at EurekAlert!

Photo Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Staff