Sunday, 18 October 2015

The American Inequality Series: An Introduction


“The richest country, is not that which has the most capitalists, monopolists, immense grabbings, vast fortunes, with its sad soil of extreme, degrading, damning poverty, but the land… where wealth does not show such contrasts high and low, where all men have enough- a modest living…”



The famous words of 19th-century American poet Walt Whitman ring true perhaps more than ever in the United States of today. The previous few decades have seen economic inequality in the USA escalating with little end in sight- and recent economic crashes have not exactly helped the situation either. 

Economic inequality has been a theme reoccurring throughout the world, throughout history- from the time of Ancient Greece, where Plato described any city to be split into “the city of the poor, the other of the rich… at war with each other.”, to today where inequality is often a side effect of economic development (India, China are notable contemporary examples). 

But the USA has experienced a more unorthodox growth in inequality. Like China and India, in recent decades the US economy has been growing- yet an almost unique mixture of politics and economic culture has made the USA, according to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook, the most unequal of the top 20 developed global economies, scoring a GINI coefficient of 85.1% (the higher the coefficient, the more the inequality). In comparison, the UK scored a relatively modest 67.7%, the aforementioned India 81.1% and China 69.5%. 

The GINI coefficient is the most common mathematical measure of wealth inequality, measuring income distribution. Considering a score of 0% means perfect equality (everyone has the same income) and 100% means total inequality (one person holds all income, everyone else has nothing), 85.1% shows how far the USA’s inequality has grown.

The last time the USA saw inequality at the levels of today was in the years leading to the Great Depression- so what is it that is driving today’s inequality? 


Over the next few weeks at poponomics we'll be discussing all things America, from the idea of the 1%, to education, to politics, to the very nature of capitalism itself, as we closely analyse this massively important question.

Stay tuned- the American Inequality series starts on Wednesday, as we turn our attention to the impact Corporations have had on American society.

Mohammad Lone Editor