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.


  1. I would curious to see how this data measures up to economic data of pre-revolution era America? I seem to remember similar graphs from an economist arguing for deeper economic reasons for the start of the American Revolution.

  2. hello thanks you for the helpful information


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