Inequality as a Multidimensional Process

Inequality as a Multidimensional Process. Daedalus: Journal. Summer 2019.

Rising inequality is one of our most pressing social concerns. And it is not simply that some are advantaged while others are not, but that structures of inequality are self-reinforcing and cumulative; they become durable. The societal arrangements that in the past have produced more equal economic outcomes and social opportunities – such as expanded mass education, access to social citizenship and its benefits, and wealth redistribution – have often been attenuated and supplanted by processes that are instead inequality-inducing. This issue of Dædalus draws on a wide range of expertise to better understand and examine how economic conditions are linked, across time and levels of analysis, to other social, psychological, political, and cultural processes that can either counteract or reinforce durable inequalities. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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What’s Happening to the World Income Distribution? The Elephant Chart Revisited

What’s Happening to the World Income Distribution? The Elephant Chart Revisited. Brookings Institution. Homi Kharas and Brina Seidel. April 2, 2018

 In 2013, Christoph Lakner and Branko Milanovic published a graph—quickly dubbed the “elephant chart”—that depicts changes in income distribution across the world between 1988 and 2008. The chart has been used to support numerous reports of rising inequality fueled by increased globalization. Every time a populist movement rises, every time the elite gather in Davos, every time Oxfam publishes a new report on inequality, the elephant chart resurfaces. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 34 pages].

Job and Cultural Insecurity, More than Inequality, Fuels Populism

Job and Cultural Insecurity, More than Inequality, Fuels Populism. YaleGlobal. Pranab Bardhan. February 20, 2018

 For many workers, insecurity is a more pressing concern than inequality. They worry more about jobs threatened by global trade and automation, their communities’ vanishing way of life, and children’s future than inequality and increasing amounts of wealth controlled by a small percentage of the population. Populist leaders, many wealthy themselves, convince substantial numbers of voters that the educated, the experts and established political leaders do not care about the plight of ordinary workers. Middle-class liberals may support the causes that benefit the poor or working class, but they can also “insulate themselves with residences in gentrified cities, assortative marriage patterns and cosmopolitan professional occupations,” explains economist Pranab Bardhan. “Sociologists often point out that the part of inequality that is salient to us is the contrast between our own lifestyle – and housing and school choices – and that of those who may be just above us. The inequality with the billionaires is too distant.” Bardhan offers practical proposals – on wage subsidies, global skill partnerships, and trade union and church initiatives – for countering populism and easing the insecurity over culture, immigration and inequality. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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The Impact of Taxes and Social Spending on Inequality and Poverty in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru: A Synthesis of Results

The Impact of Taxes and Social Spending on Inequality and Poverty in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, and Peru: A Synthesis of Results. Center for Global Development. Nora Lustig et al. November 26, 2012.

Latin America is known for high levels of inequality, which governments can lessen somewhat through smart policy. The authors analyze how and whether taxes, subsidies, and social spending reduce inequality across countries in the region and identify which policies are most beneficial. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 28 pages, 955 KB].

Pathways to the Middle Class: Balancing Personal and Public Responsibilities

Pathways to the Middle Class: Balancing Personal and Public Responsibilities. Brookings Institution. Isabel V. Sawhill et al. September 20, 2012.

Americans have an unusually strong belief in meritocracy. In other nations, circumstances at birth, family connections, and luck are considered more important factors in economic success than they are in the U.S. This meritocratic philosophy is one reason why Americans have had relatively little objection to high levels of inequality, as long as those at the bottom have a fair chance to work their way up the ladder. Similarly, Americans are more comfortable with the idea of increasing opportunities for success than with reducing inequality. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 24 pages, 1.20 MB].