I See Rich People

Catherine Rampell notes a Gallup poll that found only 6 percent of households making over $250,000 think their taxes are too low but 30 percent of that same group thinks "upper-income" people pay too little in taxes. She blames "this disconnect on the fact that upper-income people don’t realize they’re upper income." Andrew Gelman agrees:

There's lots of evidence that people don't have a good feeling for population statistics–one of my favorite examples is a Washington Post survey from 1995 that found that "Most whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asian Americans said the black population, which is about 12 percent, was twice that size." They similarly way overestimated the percentage of Hispanics and Asians in the country. Whites overestimated the proportion of minorities, and minorities overestimated the proportion of minorities too. Given that people haven't even learned these simple percentages, it's not shocking that they can't come to grips with something more complicated such as an income distribution.