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Public Misperceptions Are a Barrier to Combating Inequality

Stefanie Stantcheva (Harvard University)

Large-scale surveys of US attitudes reveal widespread misperceptions that determine economic biases. Stefanie Stantcheva, professor of economics at Harvard University, explains that Americans’ misplaced optimism about social mobility makes them less likely to support tax and spending programs to help the poor. Similarly, Americans overestimate the number of immigrants in the United States and the percentage of immigrants who are poor, breeding a general hostility to immigrants. She finds that differences in perceptions align with political viewpoints. Her comments are from the “Combating Inequality” conference at the Peterson Institute for International Economics on October 17–18, 2019.