Special Issue on Inequality

Source: Science, Vol. 344 no. 6186, May 23, 2014

From the introduction:
The Science of Inequality – What the numbers tell us
Gilbert Chin, Elizabeth Culotta

In 2011, the wrath of the 99% kindled Occupy movements around the world. The protests petered out, but in their wake an international conversation about inequality has arisen, with tens of thousands of speeches, articles, and blogs engaging everyone from President Barack Obama on down. Ideology and emotion drive much of the debate. But increasingly, the discussion is sustained by a tide of new data on the gulf between rich and poor.

This special issue uses these fresh waves of data to explore the origins, impact, and future of inequality around the world. Archaeological and ethnographic data are revealing how inequality got its start in our ancestors (see pp. 822 and 824). New surveys of emerging economies offer more reliable estimates of people’s incomes and how they change as countries develop (see p. 832). And in the past decade in developed capitalist nations, intensive effort and interdisciplinary collaborations have produced large data sets, including the compilation of a century of income data and two centuries of wealth data into the World Top Incomes Database (WTID) (see p. 826 and Piketty and Saez, p. 838).

Articles include:
The ancient roots of the 1%
H. Pringle
Don’t blame farming. Inequality got its start among resource-rich hunter-gatherers.

Our egalitarian Eden
E. Pennisi
Today’s economic inequality goes back thousands of years but in evolutionary time it is relatively recent.

Physicists say it’s simple
A. Cho
If the poor will always be with us, an analogy to the second law of thermodynamics may explain why.

Inevitable inequality?
A. Deaton
The distribution of wealth between and within countries stems from progress in health and wealth that began 250 years ago.

Inequality in the long run
T. Piketty and E. Saez
Everything you wanted to know and weren’t afraid to ask about income and wealth.

Tax man’s gloomy message: the rich will get richer
E. Marshall
With a massive database of income tax records, a French superstar challenges conventional wisdom on inequality.

A world of difference
Emily Underwood
New data allow researchers to map inequality the world over.

Can disparities be deadly?
E. Underwood
Controversial research explores whether living in an unequal society can make people sick.

The intergenerational transmission of inequality
A. Aizer and J. Currie
Helping needy mothers helps their children.

On the psychology of poverty
J. Haushofer and E. Fehr
Being poor exacts psychological costs, too.

While emerging economies boom, equality goes bust
M. Hvistendahl
Inequality spikes in developing nations around the world.

Income inequality in the developing world
M. Ravallion
Growth does not widen the gap between rich and poor.

Skills, education, and the rise of earnings inequality among the “other 99 percent”
D. H. Autor
A rising tide lifts some people’s boats, but capsizes others

Tracking who climbs up—and who falls down—the ladder
J. Mervis
Researchers seek new ways to understand social mobility and opportunity in America

More on the science of inequality
J. Mervis
How two social scientists got unique access to tax records, the meaning of “IGE” and more…