When it comes to rising income inequality, it's not only the have-nots who are worried.
Two-thirds of millionaires are concerned about the level of economic inequality in America, according to a survey from PNC Wealth Management. The issue has increasingly set off alarm bells among economists and many in the middle class, given that the top 1 percent of U.S. earners have seen rising wealth and income, while it has stagnated for the rest of the country.
Yet while some economists prescribe remedies such as higher taxes on the rich, the most affluent Americans have a different take on how to fix the country's income woes. Seven out of 10 millionaires say charities that address poverty and hunger should be supported, while two-thirds advocate support of scholarships and other educational support for low-income families. When it comes to raising taxes on the rich, only 44 percent of the country's millionaires are in favor.
"These findings show the wealthy realize that our society is better when everyone is in the game and earning, and that economic inequality can have negative consequences," Thomas Melcher, executive vice president and head of Hawthorn, PNC's family office, said in a statement. "Their commitment to charities focused on poverty and education show they care about the future and want to make an impact with their contributions."
Millionaires are apparently putting their money behind their beliefs in charitable help, with 96 percent making a financial contribution, volunteering, or donating time, services or goods to non-profit organizations in the past 12 months.
Nevertheless, the poll didn't disclose how much millionaires are giving to charity, and research from the Chronicle of Philanthropy has found that the wealthy have actually pared back their giving even as the economy recovers and fattens their bankbooks.
Across the board, Americans give about 3 percent of their income to charity, the Chronicle found. Yet the richest Americans, or those earning $200,000 or more, reduced their charitable giving by almost 5 percent between 2006 to 2012. Americans earning less than $100,000, meanwhile, actually boosted their giving by 4.5 percent during the same six-year span.
While relying on charitable may not be the answer to solving America's income gap, especially if the richest are reducing their giving, millionaires demonstrate support for another idea that also happens to be backed by labor activists and many economists: raising the minimum wage. About half of America's millionaires favor boosting the federal minimum wage, which stands at $7.25 an hour; only 38 percent oppose giving low-income workers a raise.
Meanwhile, about 41 percent of millionaires are against raising taxes on the country's top earners, while 44 percent said they support the idea.
America's rich have become even richer during the past few decades, with their wealth reaching the dizzying heights last seen during the Gilded Age, economists Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, and Gabriel Zucman of the London School of Economics found in a recent study.
The top 0.1 percent of American households have benefited the most, they found. That includes 160,000 families whose total net assets amounted to more than $20 million 2012. For the households in the next 0.9 percent of the top 1 percent of richest U.S. families, their total share of wealth actually decreased slightly during the past four decades, they found.
That suggests that some of the millionaires in the PNC study might be suffering from the same trend plaguing America's middle class: stagnating wealth.