Income Inequality on the Rise

A new report released today by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) says that income inequality between the rich and poor has grown in three quarters of OECD nations over the past twenty years. The report, "Growing Unequal?", states that the gap between the rich and middle class in the United States has also grown.

According to the OECD report,

"The United States is the country with the highest inequality level and poverty rate across the OECD, Mexico and Turkey excepted. Since 2000, income inequality has increased rapidly, continuing a long-term trend that goes back to the 1970s."

As this inequality has risen, rich households "have been leaving both middle and poorer income groups behind." According to the 30 nation report, "this has happened in many countries, but nowhere has this trend been so stark as in the United States."

Commenting on the report, Business Week notes that such increases may pose a threat to "the 'American Dream' of social mobility," with the OECD report noting that social mobility "is lowest in countries with high inequality such as the United States".

Facing a potentially deep economic downturn, the middle and lower classes may be in for rough times. Economist Anthony Atkinson, interviewed by Business Week noted that while much of the growth in inequality has taken place during a time of economic expansion, "If a rising tide didn't lift all boats, how will they be affected by an ebbing tide?" As Executive Editor Joel Kotkin noted earlier today, the survival of the "American aspirational model" may be on the line.

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Recessions and depressions have eased income inequality in the past, not vice versa.

Since a lot of income inequality reporting is based on politically correct interpretations of data, we will have to wait to see if this changes at the end of this slowdown and correction.