This is an interesting paper (abstract) by economist Edward Glaeser exploring why there’s so much income inequality in the U.S. as compared to other rich, European nations. Glaeser posits that ethic heterogeneity and different kinds of political institutions are the main drivers.
He also touches on American exceptionalism. 60% of Americans believe the poor are lazy, while only 29% of Europeans think so, even though the prospects for economic mobility are virtually the same. How we are indoctrinated – in schools, in society – makes a big difference. Why are Americans so uncomfortable with socialist ideas, and why do so many of us think the poor should just go to work, whereas Europeans view the poor as "good people beset by forces outside of their control"?
(Hat tip: David Roth)