Brown, N. D.

Brown, N. D., Jacoby-Senghor, D. S., & Raymundo, I. (2022). If you rise, I fall: Equality is prevented by the misperception that it harms advantaged groupsScience advances8(18), eabm2385.

Nine preregistered studies with a total of 4,197 people show that members of advantaged groups wrongly think that equality will hurt their access to resources and that inequality will help them.

However, advantaged group members don’t think it’s bad when they support equality within their own social group, but not support when it refers to another social group. Misconceptions remain when policies that improve equality help a lot of people or when resources and access to resources are unlimited.

A long-term survey of 2020 U.S. voters shows that people’s perceptions of harm are a better predictor of how they will vote than their political or egalitarian beliefs. Lastly, two experiments with new groups show that advantaged people are more likely to vote for policies that increase inequality that hurt their finances than for policies that increase equality that help their finances. Even after a change was made to help people make better decisions, people still have the wrong ideas. This mistaken belief that equality has to be a zero-sum game could be why inequality still exists, even though it has costs for society that hurt everyone.