Journalist’s Resource Center Tip Sheet:’How contact with the poor affects actions of the wealthy’

A new study suggests Americans are less likely to support a tax on the wealthy after seeing a poor person in an affluent setting.

The issue: Since the 1970s, U.S. income distribution has grown more concentrated, with more of the nation’s wealth going to the top 1 percent of earners, according to research from two prominent scholars at the University of California, Berkeley. Over the years, policymakers at the federal and state levels have introduced a range of proposals aimed at helping redistribute income. Many of those proposals focus on changes in taxation – primarily, raising taxes on the rich.

Key takeaways:

  • Pedestrians were 4.4 percentage points less likely to support the tax policy in the presence of a poor person, regardless of the person’s race.
  • Individuals who were asked to support a policy on plastic bags did not appear to be affected much by the presence of a poor person.
  • White men were slightly more likely to support the tax while in proximity to a poor black person compared with a poor white person.
  • Sands asserts that the results of the study “suggest that the presence of poverty, particularly in a place of affluence, decreases support for policies aimed at alleviating those conditions, a worrisome conclusion given that the general population increasingly resides in urban environments where contact with low-income individuals is likely. Homelessness, the most visible manifestation of rising urban poverty, may perversely discourage citizens from favoring social safety nets.”

Read the full news story tip sheet here: How contact with the poor affects actions of the wealthy – Journalist’s Resource Journalist’s Resource


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