Are we better of with high income inequality? I hope—I pray—that your assertion that income inequality will not lead to civil unrest in America is correct. Exploitation is political catnip. From 1983 to 2016, the share of aggregate wealth going to upper-income families increased from 60% to 79%. See. Income inequality has fluctuated considerably since measurements began around 1915, declining between peaks in the 1920s and 2007 (CBO data) or 2012 (Piketty, Saez, Zucman data).Inequality steadily increased from around 1979 to 2007, with a small reduction through 2016, followed by an increase from 2016 to 2018. A key omission is the value of in-kind services received from government sources. In this debate, we are talking about unfairness and inequity that we have the power to affect. It allows us to preen and feel self-righteous, but it doesn’t help anyone.Â. And the good news is that the people have formed their opinions on this issue. If you look at our homepage, you will find that we are an all-volunteer charitable organization, so we do not have the overnight staff that many major outlets have. Robert is a regular contributor, but his views are not the views of DWF. And watch the country we both love blossom in the springtime once again. 1. By either estimate, income inequality in the U.S. is found to have increased by about 20% from 1980 to 2016 (The Gini coefficient ranges from 0 to 1, or from perfect equality to complete inequality). These estimates refer to gross (pretax) income and encompass most sources of income. The table shows one in five Americans make a six-figure household income or better. This report presents estimates of income inequality based on household income as estimated in the Current Population Survey (CPS), a survey of households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in partnership with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You are right that the top 20% of Americans are doing well. “To each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities.” Marx seemed to have solved income inequality for all time. More recent trends in household income suggest that the effects of the Great Recession may finally be in the past. About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. No one would be wealthier than anyone else. One reason for the concern is that people in the lower rungs of the economic ladder may experience diminished economic opportunity and mobility in the face of rising inequality, a phenomenon referred to as The Great Gatsby Curve. That is the essence of a republic. This is the time for a twist on an old expression that expresses a theme of conservatism: Don’t just do something! This is an argument for equal opportunity. The share flowing to lower-income households inched down from 10% in 1970 to 9% in 2018. Question 2: Who decides what is fair and unfair? The logical inconsistency of Republicans pumping defense spending while slashing federal spending on entitlements, healthcare, education, and the environment is outrageous. The Rise of Income and Wealth Inequality in America: Evidence from Distributional Macroeconomic Accounts Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman NBER Working Paper No. You are right that the top 20% of Americans are doing well. Over 20 percent of our nation’s income flows to the top 1 percent. While I do not agree with you that income inequality is a blessing, my argument is not for total equality. The bigger the difference is in distribution in a certain region, the higher the inequality. From 2007 to 2016, the median net worth of the richest 20% increased 13%, to $1.2 million. Others have highlighted inequality’s negative impact on the political influence of the disadvantaged, on geographic segregation by income, and on economic growth itself. Follow the RSS feed for this page: See the latest Pew Research Center reports and data related to income inequality in society. The fact that two billionaires—Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer—attempted to buy the Democratic primary are symptoms of this sad reality. Join me. The World Social Report 2020, published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), shows that income inequality has increased in most developed countries, and some middle-income countries - including China, which has the world’s fastest growing economy.. According to the latest released Census data, the 2018 American Community Survey five-year estimates, the Gini index of income inequality rose to 0.4822, up from 0.4815 is 2017. Thanks to lower corporate taxes and fewer regulations on business, our unemployment rate is the lowest in a half century and the lowest in history for minorities. Your station is life was immutable.Â. The share of American adults who live in middle-income households has decreased from 61% in 1971 to 51% in 2019. Lower-income families had only 4% of aggregate wealth in 2016, down from 7% in 1983. The wealthiest families are also the only ones to have experienced gains in wealth in the years after the start of the Great Recession in 2007. Many of these founders and their companies leverage technologies that were invented through taxpayer-funded research (including the, The people, of course! That’s quite an exercise of intellectual gymnastics you have performed, all in an attempt to avoid what is really a basic truth. This is a cause for celebration. The labor market is on a job-creating streak that has rung up more than 110 months straight of employment growth, a record for the post-World War II era. The table demonstrates widespread abundance in our land, touching all classes. We can modestly increase taxes on billionaires and remove tax breaks for large corporations in order to assist impoverished Americans and small business owners. Radical centrism. In time the nation will turn away from it, as Thatcherite England did after its post-war dalliance with socialism. They reaped the benefits of the American economy, society, and legal system. That is at the heart of the clamor for income inequality. Ford paid his workers enough for them to buy his Model T. He created a middle class that strived to own a house and a car and succeeded. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts. If you missed Part I, you can find it here. Must I suffer to make things fairer to others? His eclectic career has included military and civilian aviation, engineering, marketing and marketing communications. America 2020 – Candidates, issues and the latest news from the campaign trail. Good people don’t let it get the better of them. Even among higher-income families, the growth in income has favored those at the top. Whatever the causes, the uninterrupted increase in inequality since 1980 has caused concern among members of the public, researchers, policymakers and politicians. The evidence was all around him in his lifetime as the productivity gained by the Industrial Revolution improved the life of the worker dramatically. This is a national accomplishment. Household incomes have grown only modestly in this century, and household wealth has not returned to its pre-recession level. Economic inequality, whether measured through the gaps in income or wealth between richer and poorer households, continues to widen. But I happened to notice that you did not respond to my pressing question about the Trump tax cuts. But through hard work, they built a future for themselves and their families. Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World, By Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Ruth Igielnik and Rakesh Kochhar. The top 1 percent’s share of our country’s wealth is approaching 40 percent. Here is part of a table of IRS data showing adjusted gross income, after losses and deductions. Good people don’t let it get the better of them. Trends in income and wealth inequality, Household incomes are growing again after a lengthy period of stagnation, Upper-income households have seen more rapid growth in income in recent decades, Income growth has been most rapid for the top 5% of families, The wealth of American families is currently no higher than its level two decades ago, The wealth divide among upper-income families and middle- and lower-income families is sharp and rising, Income inequality in the U.S has increased since 1980 and is greater than in peer countries, 3. Otherwise, enjoy your daily dose of civil discourse. I, instead, believe Albert J. Nock’s argument that the first law of human nature is. This is not just inequality. See Gallup polling: “Americans’ Long-Standing Interest in Taxing the Rich.” There may be disagreements about the extent and degree to tax the wealthiest Americans, but there is consensus that something should be done. Inequality as a Voter Concern in 2020 by Frank Newport Economic inequality has been a front-and-center emphasis for the Democratic presidential candidates this year, but there is little evidence that it has become an increasingly important priority for the average American. The wealth gap among upper-income families and middle- and lower-income families is sharper than the income gap and is growing more rapidly. What is the relationship between inequality and civic health? 2016: Top 1% had 29.5$ T, bottom 50%? As you well know, this is a gross oversimplification. Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 34, Number 4—Fall 2020—Pages 3–26 F or the measurement of income and wealth inequality, there is no equivalent to Gross Domestic Product statistics—that is, no government-run standardized, documented, continually updated, and broadly recognized methodology The challenges are underscored by UN chief António Guterres in the foreword, in which he states that the … Nonetheless, my counter to your rebuttal is in four parts: Let’s start by placing income inequality in historical perspective. The shortfall in household income is attributable in part to two recessions since 2000. I, instead, believe Albert J. Nock’s argument that the first law of human nature is survival and the second law is exploitation. This time it took until 2015 for incomes to approach their pre-recession level. 1615 L St. NW, Suite 800 Washington, DC 20036 USA The top 1% earns forty times more than the bottom 90%. As you well know, this is a gross oversimplification. Government could make things more “equal.” If it does, we won’t see sudden changes. Your other questions presume that those who are wealthy worked hard and have made good choices while those who are poor are lazy and have made bad choices. The middle class will not revolt because they are, Question 4: God gave us free will. If the income distribution is perfectly unequal, a single person or household holds all aggregate income, the Gini coefficient is equal to one. We need to approve comments individually, and sometimes our volunteers are busy working in a variety of different jobs and taking care of their families. ... Income inequality in America. Over 20 percent of our nation’s income flows to the top 1 percent. Barely 10 years past the end of the Great Recession in 2009, the U.S. economy is doing well on several fronts. As a result, the wealth gap between America’s richest and poorer families more than doubled from 1989 to 2016. Question 4: God gave us free will. I think we both know: the government. True, not all low-income Americans are able to achieve this American dream. Peasants had it bad. All Right Reserved. This is substantially greater than the average rate of growth from 1970 to 2000 and more in line with the economic expansion in the 1980s and the dot-com bubble era of the late 1990s. On the other hand, middle-income families saw their median net worth shrink by 20% and lower-income families experienced a loss of 45%. The socialist fad in the democratic party will fade. But middle-class incomes have not grown at the rate of upper-tier incomes. The net worth of lower-income families increased from $12,3oo in 1983 to $20,600 in 2001, up 67%. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research. By either estimate, income inequality in the U.S. is found to have increased by about 20% from 1980 to 2016 (The Gini coefficient ranges from 0 to 1, or from perfect equality to complete inequality). Because income taxes are progressive and in-kind services also serve to boost the economic wellbeing of (poorer) recipients, not accounting for these two factors could overstate the true gap in the financial resources of poorer and richer households. (Figures are expressed in 2018 dollars.). Everything belonged to the state. Households in the lower-income tier experienced a gain of 43%, from $20,000 in 1970 to $28,700 in 2018. The ratio increased in every decade since 1980, reaching 12.6 in 2018, an increase of 39%.14. And the good news is that the people have formed their opinions on this issue. Over 20 percent of our nation’s income flows to the top 1 percent. Finally, I want to quash your last and deepest objection to income inequality, the notion that one must rail against it because that’s what good people are expected to do. The period from 2001 to 2010 is unique in the post-WWII era. Thus, the 1980s marked the beginning of a long and steady rise in income inequality. Incomes are adjusted for household size and scaled to represent a household size of three. (+1) 202-419-4372 | Media Inquiries. Divided We Fall® is a non-profit news publication working to provide bipartisan dialogue for the politically engaged. And while some of us choose to work, provide for families, and strive to get ahead, others use free will to lay about, absorb funds from government programs, and engage in self-destructive behavior. The pattern in income growth from 2011 to 2018 is more balanced than the previous three decades, with gains more broadly shared across poorer and better-off families. It bears no resemblance to the tiny number of aristocrats that owned most of the wealth in old Europe. Our top 0.1 percent hold roughly the same share of our wealth as our bottom 90 percent. Piketty, T (2014), Capital in the Twenty-First Century, translate by A Goldhammer, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. We disagree almost entirely on this subject and I suspect my views are aligned with a minority of readers. Home prices plunged starting in 2006, triggering the Great Recession in 2007 and dragging stock prices into a steep fall as well. In old Europe through the French Revolution, each citizen was either a member of the land-owning aristocracy, concerned with manufacturing or trade (ie. By comparison, the median income for upper-tier households grew 64% over that time, from $126,100 to $207,400. This is 100,000% less than the income of the top 0.001% in your IRS table. They have been protected by the American military. These are not the better angels of our nature. The Information Age is a miracle, nothing less. They reaped the benefits of the American economy, society, and legal system. The tilt to the top was most acute in the period from 1998 to 2007. But what about the rest? To what extent is economic inequality beneficial or harmful? For the top 5%, it increased by 4%, to $4.8 million. What level of income and wealth inequality is fair? Some in this country believe that cutting the taxes of billionaires and corporations is the best way to help those individuals. Empirically, consumption can be harder to measure than income. As of 2016, the latest year for which data are available, the typical American family had a net worth of $101,800, still less than what it held in 1998. The nationwide protests following the death of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of white police officers has once again shone a spotlight on the long-standing racial divide in the US. The Gini coefficient encapsulates the share of aggregate income held by each person or household. To put this in perspective, it means that three people—Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffet—have more wealth than half of the population of the U.S. (160 million people) combined. Income includes wages, investment earnings, rent, and sales of real estate. In 1980, the 90/10 ratio in the U.S. stood at 9.1, meaning that households at the top had incomes about nine times the incomes of households at the bottom. Meanwhile, the share in the lower-income tier increased from 25% to 29%. But the run up in housing prices proved to be a bubble that burst in 2006. For these reasons and more, these individuals and companies have both rights in American society, but also responsibilities. (Incomes are expressed in 2018 dollars.). “, Let’s look at the positive side. The bigger the difference is in distribution in a certain region, the higher the inequality. But that is not what we are talking about here. These estimates bracket the Census Bureau’s estimate of 0.481 for the Gini coefficient in 2016. Lots of people will be poor at some time in their lives but they don’t stay that way. He was so antithetical to income inequality that he banned all private ownership of property in his Manifesto. But fairness has a dark, pernicious side to it. For perspectives on these questions and more, read this week’s Political Pen Pal debate. The top 1 percent’s share of our country’s wealth is approaching 40 percent. Income inequality will not lead to civil unrest and the middle class will not revolt. In these three decades, the median income increased by 41%, to $70,800, at an annual average rate of 1.2%. Gains on the jobs front are also reflected in household incomes, which have rebounded in recent years. Asking the government to reduce income inequality does not help the poor. ©2020 Divided We Fall. An early governmental measure that slightly reduced inequality … Does this sound like socialistic principles to you? More globally, the Gini coefficient of inequality ranges from lows of about 0.25 in Eastern European countries to highs in the range of 0.5 to 0.6 in countries in southern Africa, according to World Bank estimates. 1913–1941. World economic prosperity is rapidly accelerating since the invention in 1969 of the microprocessor. Thus, income data in this section refer to the 1970-2018 period and the counts of people from the same survey refer to the 1971-2019 period. What a pathetic website. It leads to misery and ruin. If you think that level of poverty, one of the highest amongst developed countries worldwide, is “a reason for joy”, then you are even more deluded than your prose portrays you to be. In which contexts? Exploitation is political catnip. We’ve all seen the stats on America’s extreme inequality. Even so, the gains for both lower- and middle-income families were outdistanced by upper-income families, whose median wealth increased by 85% over the same period, from $344,100 in 1983 to $636,000 in 2001. The GOP has worshiped at the alter of tax cuts for billionaires and corporations while passing “tax reform” that increased taxes on 10 million families. Your other questions presume that those who are wealthy worked hard and have made good choices while those who are poor are lazy and have made bad choices. And while some of us choose to work, provide for families, and strive to get ahead, others use free will to lay about, absorb funds from government programs, and engage in self-destructive behavior. The top 1% of Americans and the Fortune 500 companies did not amass their fortunes on their own. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) offers an alternative estimate of income inequality that accounts for federal taxes and a more comprehensive array of cash transfers and in-kind services than is possible with Current Population Survey data. Let me now try to respond to some of your questions. I think Trump’s election and subsequent takeover of the Republican party and Bernie Sander’s corresponding insurgency, as well as Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movements prove otherwise. The rise in economic inequality in the U.S. is tied to several factors. Not only is income inequality rising in the U.S., it is higher than in other advanced economies. The share of American adults who live in middle-income households has decreased from 61% in 1971 to 51% in 2019. Income inequality has captured America's economic debate. This disparity in outcomes is less pronounced in the wake of the Great Recession but shows no signs of reversing. But what about the rest? Instead, we’ll have the slow erosion of the habit of enterprise, a withering of the life force of our world leading economy. The World Social Report 2020: Inequality in a rapidly changing world comes as we ... poverty and income inequality 37 2. From 1970 to 2018, the median middle-class income increased from $58,100 to $86,600, a gain of 49%. Upper-income families were the only income tier able to build on their wealth from 2001 to 2016, adding 33% at the median. From 1970 to 2018, the share of aggregate income going to middle-class households fell from 62% to 43%. We publish curated debates, interviews, and op-eds between individuals who disagree in order to demonstrate productive civil discourse and bipartisanship. He stated: “Say that civilization is a tree, which as it grows, continually produces rot and dead wood. Period from 2001 to 2010 is unique in the decades since 1980 the incomes of American adults who live improverished. 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