Can public consensus identify a ‘riches line’?
Speakers: Dr Katharina Hecht (LSE, III) and Abigail Davis (Loughborough University)
21st May, 12.30-1.45pm, Fawcett House (FAW), Room 9.05
While frequently discussed in the media and in popular discourse, so far not much attention has been paid to defining, and analysing public views towards, ‘the rich’ or ‘riches’ in the social sciences. In addition to addressing a gap in our research knowledge, this pilot study addresses an urgent everyday issue, at a time in which resources accruing to the very rich are ever-increasing, while many are suffering the consequences of austerity policies, including extreme food and housing insecurity.
There is a well-established research tradition that aims to build a definition of a Minimum Income Standard (MIS) based on public consensus. Our novel study seeks to draw on public consensus methods, but deploy them at the other end of the income and wealth distributions, to understand how ‘riches’ or ‘the rich’ might be defined.
The study is a first step in exploring whether members of the public in London can reach a consensus about whether there is a threshold above which people could be considered to have too much, akin to how a poverty line signifies a threshold below which people do not have enough. Specifically, it aims to analyse whether a negotiated consensus among groups of members of the public on different levels of income, can develop such a concept. The findings provide novel insights into people’s views on what it means to have high levels of income and wealth and what different levels of richness entail (description), as well as unpacking people’s judgements about different forms of wealth and the uses to which it is put (normative evaluation).