Changing Inequality

Changing Inequality

Rebecca M. Blank
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnkww
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  • Book Info
    Changing Inequality
    Book Description:

    Rebecca M. Blank offers the first comprehensive analysis of an economic trend that has been reshaping the United States over the past three decades: rapidly rising income inequality. In clear language, she provides an overview of how and why the level and distribution of income and wealth has changed since 1979, sets this situation within its historical context, and investigates the forces that are driving it. Among other factors, Blank looks closely at changes within families, including women’s increasing participation in the work force. The book includes some surprising findings—for example, that per-person income has risen sharply among almost all social groups, even as income has become more unequally distributed. Looking toward the future, Blank suggests that while rising inequality will likely be with us for many decades to come, it is not an inevitable outcome. Her book considers what can be done to address this trend, and also explores the question: why should we be concerned about this phenomenon?

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95019-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    The United States is in an extended period of rapidly rising inequality. Starting in the mid-1970s, all measures of U.S. economic inequality have risen, including inequality in wages, income, and wealth. This development has made income distribution and income inequality a topic of substantial interest among researchers and policy analysts who focus on economic and social issues in the United States.

    This book adds to the discussion about inequality in two ways. Part 1 provides a comprehensive look at changes in the level and distribution of income since 1979. Part 2 discusses the forces that drive changes in inequality.

    Whereas...

  6. PART I. CHANGES IN INCOME AND EARNINGS
    • ONE A Broader Look at Changing Inequality
      (pp. 17-26)

      The next several chapters of this book provide a detailed comparison of the composition and distribution of income in the United States in 1979 and in 2007. I am interested in looking at the pretax income available to all nonelderly adults, which I refer to as thetotal-income distribution.Surprisingly, there is almost no research that takes an approach as comprehensive as that taken in this book, looking as it does at changes in the distribution of total income and its sources. There are a large number of papers that investigate changes in wage inequality over the past several decades,...

    • TWO Changing Inequality in Annual Earnings and Its Components
      (pp. 27-52)

      Most of the research on inequality in the past three decades has focused on rising inequality in hourly or weekly wages, particularly the rapid increases in wages among more-skilled workers in contrast to stagnant or falling wages among less-skilled workers. In this chapter, focusing on workers only, I look at changes in hourly wages as well as changes in weeks and hours of work. These components combine to produce changes in total annual earnings. The results show that annual earnings have changed in ways that are quite different from the better-known changes in hourly wages. It is particularly interesting to...

    • THREE Changing Inequality in Total Income and Its Components
      (pp. 53-86)

      In this chapter, I look at changes in the distribution and level of total income available to individuals—from their own earnings, from the earnings of others with whom they live and share income, and from the receipt of unearned income from government programs, private assets, alimony payments, and other sources. Earnings are the primary source of income for most individuals and families, but most people receive some unearned income. As a result, earnings and total income need not always move together.

      Total family income is the sum of earnings, government income, and unearned income from other sources. Throughout this...

    • FOUR Understanding These Changes
      (pp. 87-114)

      In this chapter, I look at the reasons why total-income inequality is changing and why the overall distribution of total income is shifting upward. Some of these changes are due to shifts in family composition and size; some are due to changes in the level and distribution of income components within family types. I finish this chapter by talking about what these changes in total income and its distribution might signal about overall well-being among individuals.

      There are three factors underlying the shifts in total income that I observed in the last chapter. First, within each family type, family size...

  7. PART II. CAN INEQUALITY BE REDUCED?
    • FIVE How Economic Shocks Change Income Distribution
      (pp. 117-140)

      The results in part 1 indicate a long-term trend toward rising inequality over the past three decades. In this section, I step back from the data and discuss the events that mightchangesuch a trend and bring about a narrowing of the income distribution within the United States. I focus on the question, What changes might bring the recent period of rising inequality to an end? This question has particular salience given the economic crisis of 2008–09, in which the U.S. economy (and the global economy) was engulfed. Rapid declines in wealth, due to a collapse in financial...

    • SIX Ways to Reduce Inequality (and Their Limits)
      (pp. 141-157)

      The last chapter discussed some of the historical economic events that have affected income levels and income inequality. This chapter provides some sense of the magnitude of change that is necessary to significantly reduce income inequality in the United States.

      Just as many factors have led to rising inequality over the past thirty years, so there are many paths that could lead to reductions in inequality. I will discuss four different types of changes: changes in skills; changes in key economic variables, such as wages, labor-force participation, and investment income; changes in marital choices; and changes in redistributional policies. In...

    • SEVEN Changing Inequality in the United States Today
      (pp. 158-163)

      This last chapter speculates about possible changes in inequality in the United States within the next few decades. Like all prognostication, this is highly risky, since we are all constantly surprised as our personal and national histories unfold.

      The United States has been experiencing an extended period of rising inequality since the mid-1970s, following an extended period of downward-trending inequality that began sometime after 1910, including sharp reductions in inequality in the 1920s and the early 1940s. What are the factors that might lead inequality to stabilize or even reverse itself in the near future? What opposing factors might lead...

  8. APPENDIX ONE. DETAILS OF THE CHAPTER 2 SIMULATION AND APPENDIX FIGURES
    (pp. 164-172)
  9. APPENDIX TWO. FIGURES SHOWING INCOME COMPONENTS BY DECILE, 1979 AND 2007
    (pp. 173-181)
  10. APPENDIX THREE. DETAILS OF THE CHAPTER 4 SIMULATIONS
    (pp. 182-185)
  11. APPENDIX FOUR. DETAILS OF THE CHAPTER 6 SIMULATIONS
    (pp. 186-192)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 193-202)
  13. REFERENCES
    (pp. 203-214)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 215-225)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 226-226)