If you’re like the average respondent in a 2010 Harvard Business School/Duke University study, your response was this: The richest top 20 percent of society, as determined by net worth, should control 32 percent of the wealth. The bottom 20 percent should control about ten percent. And the rest should be spread out among the 60 percent in the middle, with higher-earners taking a slightly larger share.

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that those figures don’t match reality. But you might well be shocked by just how far off they are. In the study, Americans were asked how they thought wealth was actually distributed; they estimated that the top 20 percent controlled about 59 percent of the nation’s wealth, while the bottom controlled about three percent…

The financial gap has been widening. As economist Joseph Stiglitz documented in Vanity Fair in May, the top one percent of Americans have gone from taking 12 percent of the nation’s wealth 25 years ago to taking nearly a quarter today. Over the past decade, the income of the top one percent has risen 18 percent; the income of Americans in the middle, meanwhile, has fallen…

There isn’t a one-sentence explanation for why America’s wealth gap is far wider than Americans say they want it to be – and why it is growing ever wider. But a good place to start is with the decisions made by elected officials in Washington, many of whom are themselves in the top one percent.