Think you know how much wealth is controlled by the richest 20 percent of Americans? If your answer is anything like that of the 5,500 people asked this question in a 2005 survey conducted by Harvard economist Michael Norton and Duke psychologist Dan Ariely, your estimate is way, way off. While most people thought the top quintile owned about 59 percent of the wealth (almost twice the number they gave when asked to describe an “ideal” distribution), the actual number was closer to 84 percent.
That figure is almost certainly higher today: Middle-class Americans whose net worth was tied to the housing market are still hurting from the Great Recession, while the fortunes of the richest 1 percent—whose money is made on Wall Street—have already rebounded with the stock market.
For more, check out the viral video above, which builds on Norton and Ariely's research to visualize America's extreme (and growing) wealth inequality. You'll be shocked that it's so much worse than you think.