Growing income inequality

Is a subject that you read a lot about in the left-wing blogosphere, but rarely makes into mainstream news reports.  So much for liberal bias.  Kevin Drum today reproduces a chart that shows just how ridiculous it has become.  He also puts the lie to the conservative claim that growing inequality is all about education:

The numbers in this chart are all normalized to zero in 1979, and
what they show is that the total share of national income going to the
super-rich has more than doubled over that time. The merely well off
have also gotten a slightly bigger piece of the pie, while everyone
else has funded this free-for-all. “Everyone else,” in this case, means
90% of the country. Our share of national income has gone down in order
to make sure that virtually all the fruits of economic growth over the
past four decades could go to the well-off, the rich, and the
[emphasis mine]

One of the reasons it's important to see charts like this, even if
you've seen them before, is that it gives the lie to the endlessly
recycled myth that growing income inequality is mainly due to increased
returns to education and technical skills. But it ain't so. The returns
to education might be growing a bit ? though even that's debatable ?
but by far the biggest beneficiaries of skyrocketing income inequality
have been the top 1%, the top 0.1%, and the top 0.01%. Not even
Republicans will try to make the case that the top 1% have become
better educated over the past 40 years compared to the top 10%, so if
that's where income inequality is concentrated then education just
can't be a huge factor. If you're interested in the truth, you have to
look elsewhere.

The super-rich are getting super-richer because Republican economic policies favor them, not because they are so much better educated than you and me.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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