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Barely 10 years after the Great Recession ended in 2009, the US economy is doing well on many fronts. The job market is in a race to create jobs and has continued for over 110 months of employment growth, a record since World War II. The unemployment rate in November 2019 was 3.5%, a level not seen since the 1960s. Employment gains are also reflected in household incomes, which have increased in recent years.
Why Is There Wealth Inequality
But not all economic indicators look promising. Household income has grown modestly this century and household wealth has not returned to pre-recession levels. Economic inequality, as measured by differences in income or wealth, between the richest and poorest households continues to increase.
Trends In U.s. Income And Wealth Inequality
With periodic interruptions due to the peaks and lows of business cycles, American household incomes have generally increased since the 1970s. In 2018, the median household income in the United States was $ 74,600.
But the general trend distinguishes two episodes in the evolution of household incomes (the first from 1970 to 2000 and the second from 2000 to 2018) and how the earnings were distributed.
Most of the increase in household income was achieved between 1970 and 2000. During these three decades, median income increased by 41%, to $ 70,800, at an average annual rate of 1.2%. From 2000 to 2018, household income growth slowed to an average annual rate of just 0.3%. If this slowdown had not occurred and incomes had continued to rise this century from 1970 to 2000, the current median household income in the United States would be about $ 87,000, considerably higher than its actual level of $ 74,600.
The decline in household income is partly due to two recessions since 2000. The first recession, which lasted from March 2001 to November 2001, was relatively short.
Wealth Inequality In America: Key Facts & Figures
However, household incomes slowly recovered from the 2001 recession and only in 2007 did average income return to the 2000 level.
But 2007 also marked the start of the Great Recession, which dealt another blow to household incomes. This time it took until 2015 for incomes to approach pre-recession levels. In fact, the median household income in 2015 – $ 70,200 – did not exceed the level of 2000, marking a period of 15 years of stagnation, an episode of unprecedented duration in the last five decades.
Recent household income trends suggest that the effects of the Great Recession may be behind us. From 2015 to 2018, median household income in the United States increased from $ 70,200 to $ 74,600, at an average annual rate of 2.1%. This is significantly higher than the average growth rate from 1970 to 2000 and coincides with the economic expansion of the 1980s and the dot-com bubble era of the late 1990s.
The rise in economic inequality in the United States is linked to several factors. These include, in no particular order, technological change, globalization, the decline of trade unions and the erosion of the minimum wage. Whatever the causes, the steady rise in inequality since the 1980s has raised concerns among the public, researchers, policy makers and politicians.
The Ethics Of Reducing Wealth Inequality
One cause for concern is that people at the bottom of the economic ladder may face reduced economic opportunity and mobility in the face of growing inequality, a phenomenon known as the Great Gatsby curve. Others have highlighted the negative impact of inequality on the political influence of the poor, on geographic segregation by income and on economic growth itself. The question may not be fully resolved, however, as an opposite viewpoint suggests that income inequality does not harm economic opportunities.
This report presents estimates of income inequality per household income from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a survey of households conducted by the US Census Bureau in collaboration with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These estimates refer to gross (pre-tax) income and include most sources of income. A key omission is the value of in-kind services received from government sources. Since income taxes are progressive and cash services also serve to promote the economic well-being of (poorer) beneficiaries, disregarding these two factors could overestimate the real gap in the financial resources of the poorest and wealthiest households.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) provides an alternative estimate of income inequality that includes federal taxes and a wider range of money transfers and services than is possible with current population survey data. The CBO reports that the Gini coefficient in the United States in 2016 ranged from 0.595, before any taxes and transfers were accounted for, to 0.423, after taxes and transfers were fully accounted for. These estimates include the Census Bureau’s 2016 Gini coefficient estimate of 0.481. Both estimates show that income inequality in the United States grew by about 20% from 1980 to 2016 (the Gini coefficient ranges from 0 to 1, which is the perfect equality to account for inequality). Findings from other researchers show the same general increase in inequality over this period, regardless of asset transfers.
Another alternative is to focus on consumption inequality, which implicitly includes all types and sources of income, taxes and transfers. Some consumption-based estimates show that inequality in the United States has grown less than income-based estimates suggest, but other estimates suggest that consumption and income trends are similar. Empirically, consumption may be more difficult to measure than income.
Wealth Inequality In America Over Time: Key Statistics
Income growth in recent decades has shifted to high-income families. At the same time, the middle class in the United States, which once made up the clear majority of Americans, is shrinking. Therefore, a larger share of national income now goes to high-income households, and the share to low- and middle-income households is decreasing.
The percentage of American adults living in middle-income households fell from 61% in 1971 to 51% in 2019. This decline has been slow but steady since 1971, and each subsequent decade typically ends with a smaller share of middle-aged adults . – household income compared to the beginning of the decade.
The decline in middle-class participation is not a sign of a real recession. From 1971 to 2019, the income of adults in the top tier rose from 14% to 20%. Meanwhile, the share of the lowest income bracket has risen from 25% to 29%. As a result, there has been more upward movement on the income ladder than downward.
But middle-class incomes have not grown at the same pace as upper-class incomes. From 1970 to 2018, the median middle-class income jumped from $ 58,100 to $ 86,600, an increase of 49%.
The Distribution Of Wealth In The United States And Implications For A Net Worth Tax
This was significantly less than the 64% increase for higher-income households, whose median income rose from $ 126,100 to $ 207,400 in 2018. in 1970 to $ 28,700 in 2018. (Revenues are in 2018 dollars. )
Moderate income growth for middle-class households and a decreasing share of middle-income households have led to a sharp decline in the US middle-class share of aggregate income. From 1970 to 2018, middle-class households’ share of aggregate income fell from 62% to 43%. Over the same period, the share of higher-income households increased from 29% to 48%. The share allocated to lower-income households fell from 10% in 1970 to 9% in 2018.
Even among the highest-income households, income growth has favored those at the top. Since 1980, incomes have risen faster for the richest families – the richest 5% – than for families in the lower income strata. This disparity in results was less pronounced after the Great Recession, but it shows no signs of abating.
0.1% per annum for households in the lowest quintile (the lowest 20%) and 2.1% per annum in the case of households in the highest quintile (the top 20%). The richest 5% of households, the top quintile, fared even better: their incomes increased at an annual rate of 3.2% from 1981 to 1990. Thus, the 1980s marked the beginning of a long and steady increase in income inequality. .
The U.s. Wealth Inequality Is High, And Is Rising
A similar pattern prevailed in the 1990s, with income growth even more pronounced at the top. From 1991 to 2000, the median income of the richest 5% of households grew at an average annual rate of 4.1%, versus 2.7% of households in the top quintile and around 1% or slightly more than other families.
The period from 2001 to 2010 is special in the postwar era. Households across all strata have suffered a loss of income during this decade, with the poorest strata suffering more significant losses. Income growth model
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