- Researchers led by Ohio State University conducted a series of surveys
- These reveal how people feel about billionaires as individuals versus as a group.
- The team found that people think individuals are worth their money
- However, they collectively question the system when considering the super-rich.
- Findings can affect how much people support, for example, property taxes.
Personal Billionaire Prefers Elon Musk And Oprah Winfrey is admired by the public—who only think it’s unfair that the super-rich control so much money as a group.
That’s the finding of a study by researchers at Ohio State University and Cornell University, who conducted a series of surveys around income inequality.
This difference in the way billionaires are viewed alone versus as a group can affect how much people support wealth taxes on the super-rich to reduce income inequality.
Companies with greater income inequality tend to have higher rates of homicide, higher infant mortality, lower well-being and less rigid democracies.
Income inequality has increased substantially over the past decades – and, in particular, during the pandemic.
According to the Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies Program on Inequality, American billionaires saw their wealth increase by 1.8 trillion in this period.
Individual billionaires like Elon Musk (pictured) and Oprah Winfrey are admired by the public – who only think it’s unfair that the super-rich control so much money as a group
richest billionaire in the world
- Elon Musk ($219.3 billion)
- Jeff Bezos ($197.7 billion)
- Bernard Arnault ($182.1 billion)
- Bill Gates ($132.6 billion)
- Larry Ellison ($125.8 billion)
- Larry Page ($121.3 billion)
- Mark Zuckerberg ($118.6 billion)
- Sergey Brin ($116.9 billion)
- Warren Buffet ($102.7 billion)
- Mukesh Ambani ($102.5 billion)
Source: Forbes Billionaires List
“When this group of people is at the top, we think it’s unfair and wonder how luck or the economic system might have played a role,” said paper author and marketing expert Jesse Walker at Ohio State.
‘But when we see a person at the top, we think that person is talented and hardworking and is more deserving of all the money they earn.’
In their study, Professor Walker and his colleagues conducted eight experiments that surveyed a total of 2,800 people about their opinions on the super-rich.
In one study, for example, 201 respondents were asked to consider the income disparity between ‘average’ workers and CEOs.
A group of these participants were informed that the salaries of CEOs of 350 of America’s largest companies had increased from 48 times the average employee average in 1995 to 372 currently.
However, for the second group, this information was prepared with reference to a specific company – Avnet – and its CEO.
However, both groups were told that experts attributed the efforts of their CEOs to the growth of the largest 350 companies, or Avnet in particular.
The researchers found that those who were asked to consider income inequality in the context of Avnet alone reported that their CEO should have a much larger salary than the average employee, who thought about all 350 CEOs.
“When compensation is given to an individual CEO rather than a CEO as a group, we seem to be a little more tolerant of grand compensation,” Professor Walker said.
This difference in the way billionaires are viewed alone versus as a group can affect how much people support wealth taxes on the super-rich to reduce income inequality. Pictured: Oprah Winfrey, popular billionaire and American TV personality
Professor Walker said the way the rich are portrayed by society and the media has a significant role to play in people’s acceptance of income inequality.
So, in another experiment, a set of subjects were shown a modified Forbes magazine cover highlighting the twelve richest people in the world and providing readers with a brief description of each.
The team had edited the cover to remove more recognizable billionaires such as Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates – leaving only seven obscure individuals about whom participants were unlikely to have a particular positive or negative bias.
In contrast, a second group of volunteers were shown a similar cover representing only one of the seven unrecognized billionaires.
Each participant was asked to write a few sentences expressing how they felt about the billionaire or billionaires they felt, the person/people worthy of their money and how they felt that the money was earned. has gone.
‘How we express and communicate information about inequality is important. Talking about the “1 percent” is going to elicit a different response than personalizing it by talking about one person in that specific club,’ Professor Walker said. Image: Jeff Bezos, who was recently overtaken by rival Elon Musk as the world’s richest man
According to Professor Walker, the results were ‘fascinating’ – with those who wrote about an individual billionaire being significantly less angry and attributing their subject’s success to hard work and talent.
“The people in our study were clearly more upset by the wealth of the seven individuals depicted on the cover than any one of them portrayed alone,” he said.
Furthermore, those who saw seven billionaires together on the cover were more in favor of using an inheritance tax to close the gap between rich and poor than those who were presented with one billionaire alone. Went.
“How we think about the wealthiest people – as a group or as individuals – also affects our policy priorities,” he said.
‘How we express and communicate information about inequality is important. Talking about “1 percent” is going to elicit a different response than personalizing it…