Income Inequality


Income inequality is greater in the United States than in any other democracy in the developed world.–Jill Lepore

In an article, Richer and Poorer, which appeared in the March 16, 2015 issue of The New Yorker, Jill Lepore discusses income inequality. Lepore explains the “Gini Index,” which measures inequality. The Gini Index ranges from zero to one; larger numbers indicate greater inequality. Lepore writes:

Income inequality is greater in the United States than in any other democracy in the developed world. Between 1975 and 1985, when the Gini index for U.S. households rose from .397 to .419, as calculated by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Gini indices of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Sweden, and Finland ranged roughly between .200 and .300, according to national data analyzed by Andrea Brandolini and Timothy Smeeding. But historical cross-country comparisons are difficult to make; the data are patchy, and different countries measure differently. The Luxembourg Income Study, begun in 1983, harmonizes data collected from more than forty countries on six continents. According to the L.I.S.’s adjusted data, the United States has regularly had the highest Gini index of any affluent democracy. In 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau reported a Gini index of .476.

Jill Lepore’s article is well worth reading.

One can search for lists of Gini Index by country, state, or congressional district. Here are some examples:

Gini Index

In his column, published under various titles, John Stossel denies that income inequality is a problem. Stossel writes:

Inequality in wealth has grown. Today the richest 1 percent of Americans own a third of the assets. That’s not fair! But wherever people are free, that’s what happens.

Well no, that’s what happens when people allow it to happen or their governments cause it to happen. Stossel continues:

Alexis Goldstein, of a group called “The Other 98%,” complains that corporations got richer but workers’ wages “are lower than they’ve been in 65 years.” That’s a common refrain, but it’s wrong.

Stossel supports this statement with false or irrelevant arguments:

  • Ignores inflation.
  • Suggests inequality is the price of prosperity and innovation.
  • Muddles the matter with a discussion of social mobility.
  • It’s been tried. Government-enforced equality — socialism — leaves everybody poor.
  • Equality is less important than opportunity . Opportunity requires allowing people to spend their own money and take their own risks.
  • Instead of talking about “fairness,” it would be better to talk about justice: respecting other people, respecting their freedom and their property rights.
  • Real fairness requires limiting government power.

Stossel’s writing is entertainment, but entertainment with a sinister purpose–to undercut progressive politics, to protect the interests of the wealthy. Stossel pushes hard against efforts to achieve justice for rich and poor; if we buy his arguments, we have only ourselves to blame for widespread poverty in America.

© William Hungerford – March 2015


About whungerford

* Contributor at where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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3 Responses to Income Inequality

  1. Deb Meeker says:

    “That’s not fair! But wherever people are free, that’s what happens.” or “Four legs good, two legs better!”
    Maybe John Stossel ( and his cohorts) could be educated with a happy ending? I’d be more than willing to purchase a copy for him.

    “On No-Man Farm, Orvie rules. What makes that lazy pig the farmer? Orvie can walk on two legs. And that makes him better than all the other animals. All except Duck. “I have two legs, Orvie. Can I be the farmer now?” she asks.
    “You’re too little, Duck,” says Orvie. “You can’t do BIG work.” “I can do BIG work!” Duck says. Award-winning author and illustrator D. B. Johnson adds a lively new chapter to George Orwell’s classic Animal Farm. This time, a duck brings a joyful transformation to the farm—and to Orvie! In this picture book, as well as the ones he has written about Henry David Thoreau, D. B. Johnson continues, with simplicity and humor, to draw children to the complex ideas in great works of literature.” ( and apparently politics).


  2. Thanks for sharing. As a matter of fact: The United States, Australia and the UK are the top most unequal countries in the western world.

    This was mentioned in one of my classes at Sydney University (Political Economy faculty):

    ‘If Americans Want To Live The American Dream … They Should Go To Denmark’

    Liked by 1 person

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