As American as Apple Pie Charts

“We’ve got Europe lecturing us, we have Sweden coming to us and saying : ‘Um, you guys are spooking us’, we’ve got Sweden saying that we are too socialist now!”

– Glenn Beck

Last week Mother Jones published an article highlighting the growing disparity between the nation’s rich and poor. Among the sources cited was a  2005 study entitled “Building a Better America – One Wealth Quintile at a Time” done by Harvard Business School’s Michael Norton and Duke University’s Dan Ariely. Ariely and Norton conducted a relatively straight forward survey on economic disparity that focused on two main questions: what do Americans think the gap between the rich and the poor is and, alternatively, what do American believe is the ideal ratio?

In the first part of the study, each individual surveyed was asked to “choose which nation they would rather join” based on the wealth distribution of three unlabeled pie charts:

As the data shows, an overwhelming 92% of responders favored pie chart #3 (the wealth distribution of Sweden) over pie chart #1 (the wealth distribution of the U.S.). Furthermore, the survey showed that there was “much more consensus than disagreement about this desire for a more equal distribution of wealth…across groups from different sides of the political spectrum.”

Who knew Sweden’s apple pies were just as delicious to the American sweet tooth?

(Having trouble seeing the pie slivers for the U.S.? Ariely and Norton note at the end of their study that “the percentage share of total wealth, both the “4th 20%” value (0.2%) and the “Bottom 20%” value (0.1%) are not visible in the “Actual” distribution.

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