It was only a matter of time before movements like Occupy Wall Street started to bring years of tension between the rich and the poor bubbling to the surface.
Two-thirds of respondents in a Pew Research centre survey of more than 2,000 consumers said there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and the poor–up 19% from the same report just two years ago.
That means the beef between the rich and poor now ranks higher than three other historically conflicted groups: immigrants vs. natives, blacks vs. whites and young vs. old. (See how the wealth gap is a really an age gap.)
Unsurprisingly, young adults, women, Democrats and Blacks feel the most disenfranchised when it comes to wealth. They were most likely to perceive conflicts between wealthy Americans and their poor counterparts.
But whites saw the biggest leap this year, with 22% more saying they felt there were class conflicts than in 2009. (See a state-by-state look at America’s income distribution.)
“These changes in attitudes over a relatively short period of time may reflect the income and wealth inequality message conveyed by Occupy Wall Street protesters across the country in late 2011 that led to a spike in media attention to the topic,” the study says. “But the changes also may also reflect a growing public awareness of underlying shifts in the distribution of wealth in American society.”
Between 2005 and 2009, the richest 10% in the country saw their wealth expand from 49% to 56%. Of those surveyed, the majority said they felt wealthy citizens simply knew the right people or were born into money.
We don’t need Rev. Al Sharpton to tell us just how deeply the recession-fuelled gap between low-income minorities and the wealthy has become.
Mortgage lenders are being scrutinized at every level for lending practices that clearly discriminated against minority and low-income homeowners.
A study released late last year showed minority borrowers were disproportionately stuck with risky subprime loans that came back years later to drag them into foreclosure.
The same report found low-income homeowners were hardest hit by foreclosures, with 7.3 per cent having lost their homes to foreclosure since the 2008 housing crisis.
And the ripples will only run deeper, especially as banks make moves this year to start elbowing out consumers with low credit scores. They’ve already started rolling out new fees on everything from balance transfers to debit card replacements, and are pushing cushy rewards offers to attract consumers with healthy credit.
See how the Pew survey results stacked up: