Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Measures of US inequality

Mother Jones has a nice set of easy-to-read graphics that highlight economic inequality in the US.  Here are two of the more interesting; the rest can be found here

The first graph contrasts the average income of the bottom 90% of US families with the average income of the top 0.01% of US families.  The top families (in yellow) average over 27 million dollars, while the bottom families, in blue, average just over 31 thousand.  The balloons on the right (representing income) contrast with the square on the left, which represents numbers of families.  Note that while blue nearly fills all but one row of the square, the blue balloon is tiny compared to the yellow and orange balloons, which together represent the income of the top one-tenth of one percent of families.

The second set of graphs shows average household income and change in average income over time, 1979-2007. Things to take away:  (1) The average income of the top 1% of families has soared from around half a million to nearly 2 million dollars;  (2) the top 20% made a very modest gain; but the lower 60% of families have not changed at all;  (3) the lowest 80% of families has actually suffered a decrease in their share of national income, while only the top 20% has seen an increase.  The biggest increase in share of national income has been enjoyed by families in the top 1% income bracket.

If you happen to be among the top 1%, this must all look pretty good.  Otherwise, you should be pissed off, especially when any politician suggests that anyone other than those in the top 1% should be asked to "sacrifice" for the sake of the economy.

Monday, March 14, 2011

US teacher pay in international context

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has put out a table comparing teacher pay to GDP in a number of countries.  Imperfect as it might be, I think it says something about the priority that teacher pay receives in these countries.  In any case, the US does not show up well, which is not surprising since "education" is not highly valued here, despite the lip service it receives.

Notice that Finland, cited as a "top performing nation," is not far above the US.  Still, Finnish teachers probably receive far more benefits (health care, education, retirement, etc.) than US teachers do.

[Thanks to PZ Myers at Pharyngula for linking to this table, which is posted here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Linguistics at the center of Everything

Actually, so is anthropology, but this makes the point nicely that linguistics is not a marginal subject area.