Income inequality is seen as the most serious form of disparity both in the U.S. and globally

U.S. shows second-highest level of concern about race and ethnicity-based inequality among 28 countries surveyed

Washington, DC, March 26, 2021 — An Ipsos survey in partnership with Kings College London’s Policy Institute finds that people from 28 countries, including Americans, tend to view income and wealth disparities as the most serious type of inequality in their country. When presented with seven types of inequality and asked which they think are most serious, an average of 60% across all countries, including 57% in the United States select income and wealth inequality.

Americans are more likely to select inequality between racial or ethnic groups (55% do so) than are people from any of the other 27 countries surveyed with the exception of South Africa (65%). While they rank second in the U.S., racial and ethnic disparities rank only sixth globally as they are cited by an average of 29% across all countries.

Inequality between more or less deprived areas ranks second globally and third in the U.S. It is selected by 42% on average across the 28 countries surveyed and 38% of Americans.

Global vs. U.S.

There are 10-point differences both globally and in the U.S. between the percentages of women and men who view inequality between genders among the most serious ones in their country: 36% of women vs. 26% of men on average globally, and 35% of women vs. 25% of men in the U.S.

Globally and in the U.S., younger people (under age 35) are more likely to highlight inequality between racial or ethnic groups and between men and women as serious concerns than are their older compatriots.

The survey was conducted among more than 23,000 adults under the age of 75 from December 23, 2020 to January 8, 2021, on Ipsos’ Global Advisor online platform.

Detailed Findings

Income and wealth inequality

  • Fifty-seven percent of Americans believe that inequality in income and wealth is one of the most serious forms of inequality in their country, close to the global average of 60%.
  • Americans who live in the Northeast are far more likely to single out income inequality than those living in the West and the South (69% vs. 53% and 52%, respectively).
  • Concerns about income and wealth inequality are highest in Russia (83%), South Korea (80%) and Hungary (77%). On the other hand, income inequality is considered relatively less serious in Saudi Arabia (31%), Poland (38%) and Sweden (41%).
  • There is little overall relationship between actual income inequality and how serious a problem it is seen in comparison to other inequalities. The fact that Americans rank income disparity as the most serious forms of inequality in their country is in line with the U.S.’s low ranking on objective measures of income equality1. However, income inequality is even more widely perceived as a key concern by citizens of countries whose actual level of income inequality is either low (e.g., Belgium) or high (e.g., Brazil), underscoring that how seriously people perceive this type of inequality to be is unrelated to actual performance on this issue.

Inequality between racial or ethnic groups

  • Fifty-five percent of Americans believe inequality between racial or ethnic groups is one of the most serious forms of inequality in their country. This is nearly double the global average (29%) and is second only to South Africa (65%).
  • Americans under the age of 35 are more likely (65%) to say that racial inequality is a serious problem in the U.S. than those aged 35-49 (54%) and aged 50-74 (49%).
  • Among all countries surveyed, racial inequality is least viewed as a pressing issue in South Korea (8%), Argentina (9%) and Japan (10%).

Geographic inequality

  • Inequality between more and less deprived areas is considered the third most important form of inequality in the U.S., with 38% of Americans believing it to be one of the most serious forms of inequality, slightly less than the global average of 42%.
  • American parents (48%) and adults aged 35-49 (46%) are more likely than non-parents and adults of other age groups to view geographic inequality as a serious issue.
  • Concern about geographic inequality is highest in Russia (64%) and South Korea (63%), while it is lowest in Germany (22%) and Saudi Arabia (26%).

Inequality in educational outcomes for children

  • Three in ten (31%) of Americans highlight concerns about educational outcomes for children as being among the most serious in their country, on par with the global average (32%).
  • American parents (43%) are more likely than non-parents (29%) to consider educational inequality a serious problem.
  • Concern about disparities in educational achievement is highest in Turkey (56%), Chile (49%) and Peru (48%) and lowest in Poland (15%), Italy (16%) and Saudi Arabia (18%).

Gender inequality

  • Thirty percent of Americans highlight gender inequality in their country as a serious concern. This is on par with the global average (31%).
  • Concern is highest in in Mexico (45%), Turkey (42%) and Spain (42%), but lower than average in Malaysia (12%), Russia (15%) and Singapore (19%).
  • The citizens of several countries ranking highly on the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index (e.g., Spain, Sweden, France and Germany) show greater levels of concern about this issue than do those of other nations that fare worse on that index (e.g., Russia, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia).
  • However, Turkey, which ranks very low (130th) on the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index shows a particularly high percentage of adults who consider gender inequality to be among the most serious types of inequality in their country.
  • The level of concern about gender inequality in the U.S. is on par with its middling rank (53rd) in the Global Gender Gap Index.

Inequality in health and life expectancies

  • Only 23% of Americans consider inequality in health and life expectancies as one of the most serious type of inequality, lower than the global average of 31%.
  • Concern for inequality in health and life expectancies is highest in Chile (64%), Peru (56%) and Brazil (50%) and lowest in South Korea (10%), Japan (14%) and Malaysia (19%).

Intergenerational inequality

  • Inequality between older generations and younger generations is least seen as a major type of inequality in the U.S. with just 20% selecting it, slightly less than the global average (24%).
  • Concern about generational inequality is highest in South Korea (43%), Japan (39%) and Singapore (38%) and lowest in South Africa and Turkey (both 13%) and Brazil and Germany (both 16%).

About the Study

These are the results of a 28-market survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 23,004 adults aged 18-74 in Singapore, 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, 21-74 in Singapore, and 16-74 in 22 other markets between December 23, 2020 and January 8, 2021.

The sample consists of approximately 1,000 individuals in each of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, mainland China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the U.S., and 500 individuals in each of Argentina, Chile, Hungary, India, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and Turkey.

The samples in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the U.S. can be taken as representative of their general adult population under the age of 75. The samples in Brazil, Chile, mainland China, India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, and Turkey are more urban, more educated, and/or more affluent than the general population. The survey results for these markets should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more “connected” segment of their population.

The data is weighted so that each country’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of the adult population according to the most recent census data.

“The Global Country Average” reflects the average result for all the countries where the survey was conducted. It has not been adjusted to the population size of each country and is not intended to suggest a total result.”

Where results do not sum to 100 or the ‘difference’ appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of “don’t know” or not stated responses.

The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/- 3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points. For more information on Ipsos’ use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.

The publication of these findings abides by local rules and regulations.