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Katharina Hecht

Research Findings

“It’s the value that we bring.” how top income earners view inequality

March 16, 2023

The “one percent” are increasingly seen as an important point of debate in discussions on rising inequalities. But how do top income earners themselves perceive their income? Do they view top incomes as fair?

To answer this question, I conducted a study where I interviewed people in the United Kingdom with incomes that place them within the top one percent of the distribution. Most of the 30 top income earners I talked to were men, lived in London and worked in the financial industry. They worked in firms such as investment banks, hedge funds, and barristers’ chambers.

I found that the cultural process of performance pay is important for how top income earners perceive inequality.

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