Living with Inequality: Neighborhood Income Diversity and Perceptions of the Income Gap

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This article explores whether the places where people live—and specifically the diversity of incomes where people live—influence views about income inequality. Using a unique survey of New York City that contains geographic identifiers and questions about attitudes toward inequality, coupled with a rich array of Census data, we assess the degree to which the income diversity within spatially customized neighborhood boundaries influences beliefs about inequality. We find consistent evidence that attitudes about inequality are influenced by the places where people live—those who are exposed to more income diversity near their homes perceive larger gaps between the rich and everybody else, and are more likely to believe that the gap should be smaller. Moreover, this effect appears to be especially pronounced among those with lower educational attainment and at either end of the income spectrum.