The top 20% of Americans hold a record 84% of the nation's wealth while the bottom 40% own almost nothing. Paul Solman recently interviewed people for a series on inequality for Public TV and showed people three pie charts with 1) an equal distribution of wealth, 2) the distribution of wealth in Sweden, and 3) the distribution of wealth in the United States. Like Michael Norton and Dan Ariely found in their research on Americans' perceptions and preferences for the distribution of wealth, Paul Solman observed that most people don't realize the extent of inequality in America, probably because they live near others who have incomes that are relatively similar to their own. Most people thought the distribution of wealth in the U.S. was that in the chart for Sweden and that is also the distribution they preferred rather than either perfect equality or the extreme concentration of wealth that actually exists in the U.S.
Following are the charts representing the actual, perceived, and preferred distribution of wealth that Norton and Ariely found in their research:
The greatest concentration of wealth is at the "tippy-top," the people in the top 0.1%. Norton and Ariely found that a remarkably similar 93% of Democrats and over 90% of Republicans prefer a more equal distribution of wealth. Listen to Paul Salmon's 12 minute video: