The site Inequality.is wants to help you understand our income inequality problem, how it came to be, and what you can do to fix it. It starts by asking you to guess how much income is made by the top 1% of earners.

Did you guess right?

Then, given a few facts about you, it tells you the median income of people like you. This is for a white man with a bachelor’s degree.

If you’re a white man, say, you’re probably doing a lot better than some other people, even though you’re doing a lot worse than the 1%.

You’re also doing way worse than a hypothetical you from a world where wages kept up with productivity.

That’s really the crux of the issue, as exemplified in this chart, which shows how, after 1948, workers’ wages and productivity, which had been closely tied, diverged--while the earnings of the top 1% skyrocketed.

But the site says this is fixable, and offers a few policy prescriptions.

2013-06-27

Co.Exist

Visualizing Our Enormous Wealth Inequality, And What You Can Do About It

Rising income inequality is getting more difficult to ignore. Inequality.is, a fun interactive website, walks you through the problem (and helps give you ideas about the solution).

The riches of the wealthiest have been growing fast--much faster than for the rest of us. Between 1983 and 2010, the top 5% saw their pile expand 74.2%, while the bottom two-thirds actually saw theirs contract. Income inequality is bad enough, but wealth inequality is particularly troubling. Wealth--something banked and stable--is more powerful than mere income, which can disappear at any moment.

You probably already knew this, because inequality has been bubbling up as an issue for years now. More than 6.5 million people watched this terrific video showing the disconnect between what people think wealth distribution is, what they think it ought to be, and what it actually is. (One memorable takeaway: The top 1% has more wealth than what 92% of Americans think the top 20% should have.)

Whether Inequality.is, a new website from the Economic Policy Institute, will get 6.5 million hits, we don’t know. But it’s another visually-interesting riff on the theme.

Running through a series of graphics, you can decide what the top 10% should get, and find out how it’s actually divvied up (48% for the top 10%). Then, you can see why most people’s income hasn’t kept up with economic productivity, and how that divergence (starting in the late 1970s) has widened over time.

Finally, Inequality.is shows how all of this "didn’t happen by accident," but is a function of a range of policies, from taxes to trade. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich appears in the policy section to explain (video above).

The only cheery part is the last bit, which makes the point that if we created this situation, we can theoretically fix it by changing certain policies (tax fairness, financial regulation, and so on). But first, more of us need to accept that there’s problem worth fixing: many people still think the game is fair to everyone.

Add New Comment

3 Comments

  • FriendlyCanadian

    The "American Dream" in based on the opportunity for any person to rise to any level. Anyone can become President. Complementing this foundational belief is the idea that all of us can become "rich" if only we apply ourselves; there is no "structural" reason inherent in the American Way that prevents the average person from, with a good work ethic, becoming a Rolls Royce owning neighbor. Any change to the American Way is seen as an attack on the concept that all can become rich. We, the "un-rich" forgive the inequality of wealth, and the practices of those with the wealth, because we know "WE COULD BECOME ONE OF THEM." It is easy to see why those with the wealth promote this myth. The image of the rich, the opportunity to become one of the rich, is the dream that fuels our lottery mania. Ask a lottery winner if they want their winnings taxed because they believe in equality of wealth. I would argue they say "no" to taxes. They (we) have been brought up in a culture that says wealth, and more wealth, is the ultimate goal of society. (Of course not everyone, exception proves the rule.) Those who "sell" this idea of equality of opportunity and the natural desire to have exorbitant amounts of money (wealth) include the charlatans of the self-help movements. They promise the world for those who pay for the right to learn the "secrets of success." However their success is based not on the success of their customers but rather by the insinuation that if the "customer" fails it is not the "guru's" problem but rather the customer's (your) lack of motivation or desire. No one complains because to do so would bring the onus for their (our) failure down on them (us), rather than the guru that everyone totes as the one with the "answer". The "guru" of course as not just individuals. The American Dream is the "guru" that makes failure a personal failure and success a personal success. If you are not wealthy, it is your fault! Regardless of my MBA and business career, I am becoming more sensitive to those of us who are not wealthy, and the reasons behind our situation. Of course, the retort of the "wealthy" is "well if only you had worked harder." The wealthy agree with the idea that if someone fails it is their fault, just as their wealth is a result of their effort. Unfortunately an engrained culture is rarely changed by logic. Those with the wealth have too much to lose to debate intelligently. As has been said, if caught n the horns of a dilemma throw sand in the "bull's eyes". We call the sand throwers the paid-for voices of FOX News. (I am getting redundant.) Enough said.

  • annieintexas

    How about work ethic inequality?  I'm certainly not in the top percent, but I aspire to be!  I don't begrudge the wealthy their income and prosperity, because in America I have the opportunity to achieve everything my beliefs + work ethic allow me to.  What I do not appreciate is forfeiting my hard-earned income to (1) those who sit on the a** and (2) to government waste and excess.  Go live in some other socialized country if you think wealth distribution is the issue - it's not.   

  • annieintexas

    ...and PS - I don't even earn the average "median income" stated of $55,406 - I am well below that figure.  But additional FEDERAL taxes reduced my household income by more two weeks worth of my annual income.  That while our President and his family spend more on one day of vacation than I make in a month, yet he and articles like this purport wealth redistribtuion?!?