Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Economic Inequality in the USA

I quote from a report by the Pew Research Center:
By one measure, U.S. income inequality is the highest it’s been since 1928. In 1982, the highest-earning 1% of families received 10.8% of all pretax income, while the bottom 90% received 64.7%, according to research by UC-Berkeley professor Emmanuel Saez. Three decades later, according to Saez’ preliminary estimates for 2012, the top 1% received 22.5% of pretax income, while the bottom 90%’s share had fallen to 49.6%.

The portion of income obtained by the bottom 90% dropped during the 1920s, stayed low during the Depression, and then climbed during the New Deal. It stayed pretty high until the Reagan revolution, and then dropped until the Great Depression, and is staying low.

The U.S. is more unequal than most of its developed-world peers. According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. ranked 10th out of 31 OECD countries in income inequality based on “market incomes” — that is, before taking into account the redistributive effects of tax policies and income-transfer programs such as Social Security and unemployment insurance. After accounting for taxes and transfers, the U.S. had the second-highest level of inequality, after Chile. 
 Wealth inequality is even greater than income inequality. NYU economist Edward Wolff has found that, while the highest-earning fifth of U.S. families earned 59.1% of all income, the richest fifth held 88.9% of all wealth.

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