The U.S. Is Number One — For Income Inequality

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Chinese worker wears a mask as he delivers bags of cement at a factory in Hefei, east China's Anhui province on October 6, 2010. (STR/AFP/Getty)

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, the United States has the most unequal income distribution of all major industrialized nations. The gap between rich and poor has widened since the 1970s, as has what researcher Lane Kenworthy calls "inequality of opportunity." Kenworthy writes that available data "strongly suggests that the opportunity gap, which was narrowing until the 1970s, is now widening."

The United States is hardly alone in terms of rising inequality. China's rapidly modernizing economy has garnered a great deal of attention over the last decade, but as Chinese cities like Beijing expand and the upper class ascends, poor migrants from the countryside continue to flood the cities in search of a better life — and they're finding few opportunities available to them. 

GlobalPost, a world news site, partnered with the Ford Foundation to look at income inequality across the world. Their report, "The Great Divide: Global Income Inequality and Its Cost," includes dispatches from GlobalPost's foreign affairs columnist Michael Moran, who looks at income inequality in the United States, and correspondent Kathleen McLaughlin, who explores migration and inequality in China. 


Kathleen McLaughlin and Michael Moran

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja and Jillian Weinberger

Comments [8]


The genie pops out and gives a wish: "I wish my neighbor's pig would die." (Old Communist joke)

If your neighbor is rich too, then actually neither of you are.

Forget about "comfortable" "middle class" and "access to opportunity." We're talking about rich people protecting their status as rich people.

Jan. 30 2013 03:19 PM
CK from Yorktown

Did someone just drop these people on the planet and they think income inequality is "new?" Thus has it always been and so will it be. Wealthier citizens have better education and access to better jobs and so it goes. This constant "not fair" conversation is not helping anything. Comparing Connecticut to China is just silly.

Jan. 30 2013 03:15 PM

Contribution in volunteer time and cash by Greenwich and other rich areas to Bridgeport?

Contribution in volunteer time and cash by Shanghai and other rich areas to poor ones?

Not sure what the "next step" here but am listening...

Jan. 30 2013 03:13 PM
oscar from ny

Mr Obama should recognize that the evil is within,...there are clues in the Casey Anthony trial bout this "hope" word and the mystery of the crime that's been committed by the devils that surround the president and the constitution..

Jan. 30 2013 02:59 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

The finger raised by Americans for being #1 in Income Inequality might be a different finger raised, than when the local Sports team wins the championship.

Jan. 30 2013 12:40 PM
Richard Coiner from Oklahoma

1. Inequality is not the same thing as lack of mobility.

2. Current u.s. inequality is not the result of government policy, but the result of the new dominance of our economy by financial services. Kevin Phillips in his last book traced how finance now accounts for more of our profits than manufacturing. This sector tends to create large wealth in a few hands.

3. There are a lot more than 230 million people in the U.S.

Jan. 30 2013 10:30 AM
Jessie Henshaw from Way Uptown

There's always a hugely curious omission in our discussions of inequality. Inequality is nearly everyone's main pursuit, and the wealthy and the wage earner do it by two entirely different means. Over history there are times when one method or the other is more successful.

The recent history is something big happened in ~1970 that allowed the wealth of wealthy to keep growing faster and faster, while the earnings of people earning from labor didn't.

So one part is the basic difference between where the wealthy and the wage earner gets their money. The wealth of the wealthy naturally increases faster and faster, without their doing more work, and that's because they reinvest most of their profits to increase their investments. The wealth of wage earners naturally increases only as fast as then can put aside money out of their wages.

So, from an economic ecology view, ever growing inequality is the "natural condition" of any free market economy, not the reverse. That we had an economy where wages grew as fast as big money **WAS THE EXCEPTION NOT THE RULE**.

It's ignoring that STRUCTURAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO METHODS OF EARNING that keeps people from understanding the factors that occasionally cause the exceptions to the rule. If anyone wants to follow up, drop me a line. It could help you a great deal to learn how to see this from an economic ecology point of view.

Jan. 30 2013 09:49 AM

Comparing the "Constitution State" of Connecticut to China?

"Tooth and claw early stages of capitalism.."
"Really rethink our civic institutions..."
"Failure of this capitalist notion...a cruel hoax".

Any critiques of the Marxist notion and it's "cruel hoax" of income equality?

It seems progressive statists do their best to undermine and punish the middle-class and then are...shocked, shocked at the diminution of the middle-class and then call for more statist interference.
The pattern seems to be sabotage the system and then replace the system.

If zero income inequality is the goal then do all roads lead to North Korea?

Jan. 30 2013 09:31 AM

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