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:
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