The Slatest

Watch CBS Journalist Blow Away Mall Shoppers by Using a Pie to Illustrate Inequality

A hand points to slices of pie labeled as "wealthiest" and "top 1%."
CBS This Morning co-host Tony Dokoupil divides up pie slices to illustrate inequality in a segment aired on Friday. Screenshot/CBS News

Even though people may know that wealth inequality in the United States is a serious issue, many really don’t realize what it actually means to say that the gap between rich and poor is the worst it’s been in more than a half-century. So CBS News came up with an innovative way to explain it to random people in a mall. The result? People were dumbfounded when presented with an illustration of just how wealth is divided in the country.

CBS This Morning co-host Tony Dokoupil set up a table at a mall in West Nyack, New York, with a pie that represented $98 trillion of household wealth in the United States. The pie was sliced into 10 pieces and Dokoupil asked people to divide up those pieces onto five plates representing the poorest, the lower middle class, middle class, upper middle class, and wealthiest Americans. No one got it right. And, in fact, no one was even kind of close to estimating the real ratio, which involves giving nine pieces to the top 20 percent of Americans while the upper middle class and the middle class share one piece between the two of them. The lower middle class would effectively get crumbs considering they only have 0.3 percent of the pie. What about the poorest Americans? They wouldn’t get any pie at all, and in fact would get a bill, considering they are, on average, around $6,000 in debt.

To illustrate just how concentrated wealth is in the country, Dokoupil went on to note that if just the top 1 percent are taken into account, they would get four of the nine pieces of pie that go to the wealthiest Americans.

Those who participated in the informal CBS News survey were shocked with the results with one calling it “disturbing.” Another one called it “very depressing.” The little experiment by CBS is obviously just a snapshot but shows how even though the issue of wealth inequality is often talked about in the campaign to become the next Democratic presidential candidate, many people still have trouble realizing what that means.

The segment received praise on social media. “Can’t believe this is on CBS,” wrote comedian Rob Delaney. Sen. Elizabeth Warren linked to the segment, writing on Twitter that “this is what the wealth gap looks like in America today.”