According to a CNBC summary of a study published in the Journal Psychological Science …
The richer you are, the more likely you are to think that others are wealthy, too.
According to the study’s authors, the reason for the misconception is simple …
Since people are more likely to live, work and go to school with others in similar income brackets, when we look around, we come to the (incorrect) conclusion that most other people are at least somewhat like us.
This isn’t usually a deliberate impulse, but it’s one that can be hard to shake.
It is likely that people do not have much conscious insight or control over the processes by which they are making such judgments.
It takes a kind of super-awareness the author refers to as “metacognition” to step outside of your own implicit assumptions, something that’s hard to do even if you’ve been alerted to the tendency..
Two sets of surveys of Americans across the income spectrum found that the richer people were, the more money they assumed other people earned annually.
“These social circles are not representative of the overall population,”
Even though we interact with both rich and poor people over the course of a week or a month, more of our interactions are with people who are similar to us economically.
That means we default to using the people around us as a proxy, which distorts our perspective in a way many of us don’t even realize.
Of course, this blind spot has real-life policy implications:
Wealthier people are more likely to say the status quo of income distribution in the United States is fair, and are less likely to support redistributive policies.
F. Scott Fitzgerald may have had it right: “The rich may well be “different from you and me.”