Most Americans view current levels of economic inequality as a problem: In fact, for 30 years, Gallup polls have consistently found a clear majority supporting a more even distribution of wealth and income.
But there is far less agreement on how to achieve that goal. Do we need to level the playing field so that people born to modest circumstances have a better chance? Should we be trying to instill a stronger work ethic in the United States, and build a more robust culture of hard work? Counterproductive and, at times, bitter arguments bog down the search for solutions.
A recent paper by the psychologists Shai Davidai of the New School of Social Research and Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University reveals a quirk in human psychology that, I think, is responsible for some of our failure to make much progress on those issues. Understanding that quirk could help us find common ground on how to help the poorest Americans.