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In a survey of Harvard students and staff, what portion said they would prefer a world where (a) they earn $50,000/year and others earn $25,000 -- rather than (b) they earn $100,000 and others earn $200,000? Consumer prices are the same in (a) and (b).

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A 1995 survey of 247 people at the Harvard School of Public Health found that about half of them preferred scenario (a) in which everyone (including themselves) is poorer. This study was published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, and its conclusion states that "the majority of respondents to our survey rejected the prospect of everyone becoming richer if it was accompanied by a fall in their own relative standing." The margin of sampling error for these results is plus-or-minus 6 percentage points with at least 95% confidence. Some have claimed that these views reflect concerns that rising incomes would cause inflation, but the respondents were explicitly told that the "prices" of goods and services are "the same" in both scenarios. Moreover, income growth does not necessitate inflation. For example, wages grew significantly during the 1800s, while the Consumer Price Index stayed roughly level.

DocumentationStudy ResultsWages in the 1800sCPI in the 1800s

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