Most people misperceive economic inequality. Learning about actual levels of inequality and social mobility, research suggests, heightens concerns but may push peopleâ€™s policy preferences in any number of directions. This mixed empirical record, we argue, reflects the omission of a more fundamental question: under what conditions do people change their understanding of the meritocratic or non-meritocratic causes of inequality? To explore mechanisms of belief change we field a unique randomized survey experiment with representative populations in Australia, Indonesia, and Mexicoâ€”societies with varying levels of popular beliefs about economic inequality. Our results highlight the importance of information, perceived social position, and self-interest. In Indonesia, information describing (high) income inequality and (low) social mobility rocked our participantsâ€™ belief in meritocracy. The same information made less of a splash in Mexico, where unequal outcomes are commonly understood as the result of corruption and other non-meritocratic processes. In Australia, the impact of our informational treatment was strongest when it provided justification for peopleâ€™s income position or when it corrected their perception of relative affluence. Our findings reveal asymmetric beliefs about poverty and wealth and heterogeneous responses to information. They are a call to rethink effective informational and policy interventions.