Life Experiences and Income Inequality in the United States

Life Experiences and Income Inequality in the United States

New NPR, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Survey

Interviews Conducted by SSRS

A new poll finds that rich people are much happier with their lives than poorer people. They’re also far more likely to say they’ve achieved the American dream, that they’re satisfied with their education, and that they’re not anxious about the future.

Many people could have guessed all of that without a poll, of course. But the findings also show some striking differences — and some striking similarities — between the very richest and poorest Americans about what it takes to succeed in this country.

Certain divides are particularly revealing by political party. Sometimes, the richest and poorest members of a party disagree substantially on what it takes to get ahead and how lawmakers should approach an issue. Particularly notable is the Republican divide on the importance of universal health care.

Uniquely, the telephone survey — from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health — has a sizable sample of the “1%,” allowing us to see how the beliefs of the highest-earners differ from people of other income levels.

“People have a lot of views about what the experiences of the most successful people in America are. But we’ve never been, in most cases, able to look at them,” said Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard Chan school.