Category Archives: Income Inequality/Gap

Tax Justice Is Gender Justice

Source: National Women’s Law Center, November 2019

From the abstract:
The tax code sets the rules that shape our economy, reflecting and perpetuating notions of who and what our society values. It’s an opportunity to fight inequality. But today’s tax code contains outdated and often biased assumptions about family structures, marriage, participation in the paid workforce, and more that work together to perpetuate structural barriers against women, families with low incomes, and people of color. The tax code can be a barrier for realizing gender justice – but it can also be a tool. It’s time we take advantage.

Related:
Executive Summary

Reports include:
The Faulty Foundations of the Tax Code
Source: Ariel Jurow Kleiman (University of San Diego School of Law), Amy K. Matsui, and Estelle Mitchell, National Women’s Law Center, November 2019

This paper examines the outdated assumptions and gender and racial biases embedded in the U.S. tax code. It highlights tax code provisions that reflect and exacerbate gender disparities, with particular attention to those that disadvantage women with low incomes, women of color, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, and immigrants.

Reckoning With the Hidden Rules of Gender in the Tax Code
Source: Katy Milani, Melissa Boteach,Steph Sterling, Sarah Hassmer, Roosevelt Institute & National Women’s Law Center, November 2019

Low taxes for the wealthy and corporations have played a role in enabling – and in some cases encouraging – those with the highest incomes and the most capital to accumulate outsized wealth and power in our economy. Centuries of discrimination and subjugation of women and people of color interact today with widening income inequality, such that white, non-Hispanic men are disproportionately represented among the wealthiest households, while labor and economic contributions from women of color are consistently undervalued. An agenda to advance racial and gender justice must reckon with provisions in our tax code perpetuate and enable these inequities.

A Tax Code for the Rest of Us: A Framework & Recommendations for Advancing Gender & Racial Equity Through Tax Credits
Source: Melissa Boteach, Amy K. Matsui, Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Kali Grant, Funke Aderonmu, Rachel Black, Georgetown Institute on Poverty and Inequality & National Women’s Law Center, November 2019

While the U.S. income tax system is progressive overall, many aspects of the tax code reward wealth-building by the already wealthy and exclude low- and moderate-income families. Given the historical discrimination and ongoing structural barriers that have locked women and people of color out of economic opportunity, such tax provisions not only exacerbate economic inequality, but also amplify gender and racial disparities. This report considers the question: how can our tax code build on the success of the EITC and CTC to better dismantle structural barriers that impede economic security and wealth-building for women and people of color? It ultimately proposes a framework to help policymakers, advocates, and the public evaluate when and how refundable tax credits can advance equity, economic mobility, and opportunity for all.

The Costs of Being Poor: Inflation Inequality Leads to Three Million More People in Poverty

Source: Christopher Wimer, Sophie Collyer, Xavier Jaravel, Columbia University, Center on Poverty and Social Policy and London School of Economics, November 2019

From the summary:
It is widely recognized that income inequality has skyrocketed in recent decades. Incomes at the top of the distribution have grown rapidly, far outpacing income growth at the bottom. Recent research also shows that prices have risen more quickly for people at the bottom of the income distribution than for those at the top —a phenomenon dubbed “inflation inequality.” An implication of this new finding is that we may be under-estimating income inequality and poverty rates in the United States—two national statistics that rely heavily on the annual inflation rate as part of their calculation. In this brief, we utilize an adjusted inflation index that accounts for inflation inequality across the income distribution and re-estimate recent trends in poverty and income inequality from 2004 to 2018. Our adjusted inflation index indicates that 3.2 million more people are classified as living in poverty in 2018, and that real household income for the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution actually declined by more than 7 percent since 2004. These results show that inflation inequality significantly accentuates both the incidence of poverty and income inequality.

The Unequal Race for Good Jobs: How Whites Made Outsized Gains in Education and Good Jobs Compared to Blacks and Latinos

Source: Anthony P. Carnevale, Jeff Strohl, Artem Gulish, Martin Van Der Werf, Kathryn Peltier Campbell, Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 2019

From the summary:
Inequities in access to good jobs by race and ethnicity have grown in past decades. The Unequal Race for Good Jobs: How Whites Made Outsized Gains in Education and Good Jobs Compared to Blacks and Latinos explores how White workers have relied on their educational and economic privileges to build disproportionate advantages in the educational pipeline and the workforce. Black and Latino workers, on the other hand, have strived to overcome discrimination, racism, and other injustices that continue to perpetuate earnings inequality. Policy changes can help narrow these equity gaps; otherwise, they will continue for generations to come.

Related:
Executive Summary
Press Release
PowerPoint

State Higher Education Funding Cuts Have Pushed Costs to Students, Worsened Inequality

Source: Michael Mitchell, Michael Leachman, Matt Saenz, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, October 24, 2019

From the introduction:
Deep state cuts in funding for higher education over the last decade have contributed to rapid, significant tuition increases and pushed more of the costs of college to students, making it harder for them to enroll and graduate. These cuts also have worsened racial and class inequality, since rising tuition can deter low-income students and students of color from college.

Overall state funding for public two- and four-year colleges in the school year ending in 2018 was more than $6.6 billion below what it was in 2008 just before the Great Recession fully took hold, after adjusting for inflation. In the most difficult years after the recession, colleges responded to significant funding cuts by increasing tuition, reducing faculty, limiting course offerings, and in some cases closing campuses. Funding has rebounded somewhat, but costs remain high and services in some places have not returned.

The potential benefits of a college degree are significant, with greater lifetime earnings for those who obtain a bachelor’s degree relative to those who only receive a high school diploma. But cuts to higher education, rising tuition, and stagnant household earnings make it difficult for today’s students — a cohort more racially and economically diverse than any before it — to secure those benefits….

The future of work in black America

Source: Kelemwork Cook, Duwain Pinder, Shelley Stewart III, Amaka Uchegbu, Jason Wright, McKinsey October 2019

From the summary:
There is a well-documented, persistent, and growing racial wealth gap between African American families and white families in the United States. Studies indicate the median white family in the United States holds more than ten times the wealth of the median African American family.

Apart from its obvious negative impact on African American individuals, families, and communities, the racial wealth gap constrains the entire US economy. In a previous report, we projected that closing the racial wealth gap could net the US economy between $1.1 trillion and $1.5 trillion by 2028.

Despite this, the racial wealth gap threatens to grow as norms, standards, and opportunities in the current US workplace change and exacerbate existing income disparities. One critical disrupter will be the adoption of automation and other digital technologies by companies worldwide. According to estimates from the McKinsey Global Institute, companies have already invested between $20 billion and $30 billion in artificial intelligence technologies and applications. End users, businesses, and economies are hoping to significantly increase their productivity and capacity for innovation through using such technologies.

Related:
The economic impact of closing the racial wealth gap
Source: Nick Noel, Duwain Pinder, Shelley Stewart III, and Jason Wright, McKinsey, August 2019

From the summary:
The persistent racial wealth gap in the United States is a burden on black Americans as well as the overall economy. New research quantifies the impact of closing the gap and identifies key sources of this socioeconomic inequity.

The United States has spent the past century expanding its economic power, and it shows in American families’ wealth. Despite income stagnation outside the circle of high earners, median family wealth grew from $83,000 in 1992 to $97,000 in 2016 (in 2016 dollars).

Beyond the overall growth in top-line numbers, however, the growth in household wealth (defined as net worth—the net value of each family’s liquid and illiquid assets and debts) has not been inclusive. In wealth, black individuals, families, and communities tend to lag behind their white counterparts. Indeed, the median white family had more than ten times the wealth of the median black family in 2016 (Exhibit 1). In fact, the racial wealth gap between black and white families grew from about $100,000 in 1992 to $154,000 in 2016, in part because white families gained significantly more wealth (with the median increasing by $54,000), while median wealth for black families did not grow at all in real terms over that period…..

Financial Asset Inequality and Its Implications for Retirement Security

Source: Nari Rhee, Tyler Bond, National Institute on Retirement Security, Issue Brief, September 2019

From the summary:

A new research brief finds that financial asset inequality among Americans continues to increase, and the inequality is consistent across generations. This wealth inequality, combined with dangerously low retirement savings among most households, poses a significant threat to retirement for working Americans.

The new analysis indicates that from 2004 to 2016, the share of financial assets owned by the top 25 percent of Baby Boomer households grew from 86 percent to 91 percent. Meanwhile, the share of assets owned by the bottom 50 percent of Baby Boomer households shrank from three percent in 2004 to below two percent in 2016.

Among GenX households, the wealthiest top 25 percent owned 87 percent of financial assets in 2016. Millennials in 2016 reached a comparable degree of financial asset concentration, with 85 percent of financial assets owned by the wealthiest 25 percent.

The research brief also recommends three well-established public policies to help improve retirement security for working Americans:

Why Are Some Places So Much More Unequal Than Others?

Source: Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Economic Policy Review, Forthcoming [2019]

From the abstract:
This study examines the magnitude and sources of regional wage inequality in the United States. The authors find that, as in the nation as a whole, wage inequality has increased in nearly every metropolitan area since the early 1980s, though there is significant variation among places in both the degree of wage inequality and the pace at which it has risen. The most unequal places tend to be large urban areas that have benefited from strong demand for skill and agglomeration economies, with these factors leading to particularly rapid wage growth for high-skilled workers. The least unequal places tend to have seen weak demand for labor, largely as a consequence of technological change and globalization, and this weakness has led to lackluster wage growth across the entire wage distribution— particularly for middle- and lower-skilled workers. These findings suggest that a relatively low level of regional wage inequality is often the result of a weakening local economy, while relatively high regional wage inequality is often a consequence of strong but uneven economic growth.

Closing the Gender Pay Gap

Source: Tamara Lytle, HR Magazine, Vol. 64 no. 2, Summer 2019
(subscription required)

The gender pay gap has been stubbornly hard to close, but the tide may be turning.

…. These pay gaps are due to many factors, including women’s stepping out of the workforce for family obligations, the concentration of women in certain relatively low-paying “pink collar” occupations (such as teaching and hospitality), stereotypes that women aren’t tough negotiators on pay and plain old bias, whether conscious or not. ….

…. Big-Picture Questions on Pay Disparities

• Do women generally wait longer than men for promotions?
• Are female workers shunted into lower-paying jobs?
• Are performance reviews based on subjective factors that can be clouded by unconscious bias?
• Is the company culture welcoming to women?
• Are there gender differences in nonsalary compensation such as bonuses, overtime opportunities and stock options?

The Rich Can’t Get Richer Forever, Can They?

Source: Liaquat Ahamed, New Yorker, August 26, 2019

Inequality comes in waves. The question is when this one will break. ….

…. Tocqueville, who was the youngest son of a count, was deeply impressed by how equal the economic conditions in the United States were. It was, at the time, an accurate assessment. The United States was the world’s most egalitarian society. Wages in the young nation were higher than in Europe, and land in the West was abundant and cheap. There were rich people, but they weren’t super-rich, like European aristocrats. According to “Unequal Gains: American Growth and Inequality Since 1700,” by the economic historians Peter H. Lindert and Jeffrey G. Williamson, the share of national income going to the richest one per cent of the population was more than twenty per cent in Britain but below ten per cent in America. The prevailing ideology of the country favored equality (though, to be sure, only for whites); Americans were proud that there was a relatively small gap between rich and poor. “Can any condition of society be more desirable than this?” Thomas Jefferson bragged to a friend.

Today, the top one per cent in this country gets about twenty per cent of the income, similar to the distribution found across the Atlantic in Tocqueville’s day. How did the United States go from being the most egalitarian country in the West to being one of the most unequal? The course from there to here, it turns out, isn’t a straight line. During the past two centuries, inequality in America has been on something of a roller-coaster ride. …..

US Labor Studies in the Twenty-First Century: Understanding Laborism Without Labor

Source: Jake Rosenfeld, Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 45, July 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In recent years, labor studies has flourished even as labor unions in the United States have continued their long-term downward trajectory. One strain of this research has situated the labor movement, and its decline, at the center of economic inequality’s rise in the United States. Another has explored the labor movement’s interconnections with political dynamics in the contemporary United States, including how labor’s demise has reshaped the polity and policies. This body of scholarship also offers insights into recent stirrings of labor resurgence, ranging from the teachers’ strikes of 2017 to the Fight for 15 minimum wage initiatives. Yet the field’s reliance on official union membership rates as the standard measure of union strength, and on official strike statistics as the standard measure of union activism, prevents it from fully understanding the scope and durability of worker activism in the post-Wagner age.