Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Some Income Inequality Stats

Came across this on a link on Timothy Egan's Opinionator piece on the NY Times.  It's some interesting graphs on changes in income inequality over the years.  I think one of the most important aspects of a society is the degree of challenge its elites face on holding onto their status against those lower down that wish to compete with them.  Healthy societies will see a lot of churn as the best and brightest of those born with less advantages manage to beat the rich and powerful at their own game.  When this happens less, it's likely to indicate that the powerful have found some way of blocking this churn.  Much of what I've been suggesting on this blog are ways to restart these types of challenges and help give those less wealthy the initial push needed to challenge the powerful.

Back to the data.  Two slides stand out most to me.  The first is the one on upward and downward mobility.  While this has always been messy, there definitely seems to have been a downward trend over time.  The second interesting slide is that regarding the US and France, which shows that the income gap has not increased to the same degree in other countries.  While I'm not sure that France is the point of comparison I'd choose as most relevant, it is worth noting that inequality trends are not an unavoidable fact of life but the results of policy choices.


  1. I like these stats, too. It's hard to argue that we live in a meritocracy when there is so little upward and downward mobility. The comparison to France is valid, since we have lower social mobility than all high-income nations. We match Mexico is this respect.
    In terms of policy choices, I think education must be the number one problem. In the US, the parents' educational attainment is most closely associated to achievement in their children-more than income. But I think providing better health care and infrastructure to help the poor, like public transportation, would help too.

  2. I'd agree. I tend to think that at this point there is so much negative momentum though that tackling more than just education is necessary. There needs to be culture change, which is neither easy or something easily changeable via policy.