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Citizen Brief: Income and Wealth Inequality

Over the past 40 years, economic inequality in the United States has returned to levels last seen in the 1920s. Today, the United States is in the top quarter of the world’s most unequal countries. Economic mobility—a child’s likelihood of occupying a different position on the income ladder than his or her parents did—has fallen well behind Canada, Great Britain, and other advanced economies. And inequality has worsened over the course of the current economic recovery.


Economists have documented these changes extensively, but we need to know more about the effects, if any, of rising economic inequality on America’s overall economic growth and stability. New research suggests that growing inequality in the United States may have broad social and economic effects by reducing stable demand for goods and services, dampening entrepreneurialism, undermining the inclusiveness and responsiveness of political and economic institutions, limiting access to education, and stunting individual development. 

Wealth Inequality in America

Nov 20, 2012

Infographics on the distribution of wealth in America, highlighting both the inequality and the difference between our perception of inequality and the actual numbers. The reality is often not what we think it is.

Inequality and the Constitution 

Harvard economist Greg Mankiw has been a vocal critic of Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century since its release. His paper for this weekend's Allied Social Sciences Association (ASSA) meeting contains his most recent response. Most of the paper is spent challenging Piketty's argument that a rate of return on capital that exceeds the growth rate of the economy will lead to a return to 19th century conditions in which wealth was primarily inherited rather than earned. 


Professor G. William Domhoff calculates that 1% of the nation’s population owns 43%, and 10% owns 83%, of the nation’s financial wealth. This is the scenario that James Madison warned of, in an essay published in the New York Post.


Madison wrote:

We are free today substantially but the day will come when our Republic will be an impossibility. It will be impossibility because wealth will be concentrated in the hands of a few. A republic cannot stand upon bayonets, and when that day comes, when the wealth of the nation will be in the hands of a few, then we must rely upon the wisdom of the best elements in the country to readjust the laws of the nation to the changed conditions.



Douglas Rushkoff | Distributed: A New OS for the Digital Economy | SXSW Interactive 2016


Digital tech was supposed to usher in an age of prosperity, but so far it has put industrial capitalism on steroids. Social networks surrender their missions to data mining, and banks abandon investing for algorithms- all to stoke growth. Startups sell for billions but destroy more jobs and markets than they create.

John Oliver discusses America's growing wealth gap and why it may be a problem in the future.

THe NewYorker: The Rhetoric of Inequality

As the 2016 election season begins, Packer joins fellow-staff writer Jill Lepore and host Dorothy Wickenden to talk about the rhetoric of inequality. 

Nick Hanauer : TED Talk August 2004

Beware, fellow plutocrats, the pitchforks are coming

How Much Government is Good? AEI


“If you look back at the origins of liberalism, it starts first with a certain settlement about religious difference,” she said. “Catholics, Protestants—they’re killing each other! Finally, Germany, England, all these places say, We’re tired of these people killing each other, so we’re going to make a peace settlement: religious toleration, live and let live.”

She spread her hands wider. “Then something remarkable happens,” she said. “People now have the freedom to have crosscutting identities in different domains. At church, I’m one thing. At work, I’m something else. I’m something else at home, or with my friends. The ability not to have an identity that one carries from sphere to sphere but, rather, to be able to slip in and adopt whatever values and norms are appropriate while retaining one’s identities in other domains?” She paused. “That is what it is to be free.”


Elizabeth Anderson thinks we’ve misunderstood the basis of a free and fair society.


Has Obamacare Turned Voters Against Sharing the Wealth?


Redistribution is in trouble, and that is likely to tie American politics in knots for many years to come.


Why Americans Don’t Want to Soak the Rich


How you make sense of this seeming paradox of rising inequality and flat or declining support for redistribution depends on your ideological assumptions.

April 19, 2015, Sunday


Education and Property for All: Thomas Piketty on Capital and Ideology



APRIL 17, 2015

Is Support for Income Redistribution Really Falling?


Additoinal Resources: Google Docs


SPENT is an online game about surviving poverty and homelessness created by ad agency McKinney for pro bono client Urban Ministries of Durham, whose mission "is to provide food, clothing, shelter and supportive services to neighbors in need".

The Debt Collective’s first debtors’ union, organized in 2014, brings together people holding debts from for-profit colleges. This collective has won not only more than $1.5 billion in debt cancellation to date but also the attention of policymakers. Indeed, in June 2019, when Representatives Ilhan Omar, Pramila Jayapal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with Sanders, introduced their College for All legislation that would abolish student debt and make public college free, it was Pamela Hunt—Debt Collective member and student debt striker—who they invited to take the microphone. “I have $212,000 dollars of student debt, $51,000 of which is interest alone,” Pam began. “I stand before you as a person who pursued a higher degree and was worse off because of it.”


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