Category Archives: Income Inequality/Gap

Union Membership Narrows the Racial Wealth Gap for Families of Color

Source: Christian E. Weller and David Madland, Center for American Progress, September 4, 2018

Wealth is critical to families’ immediate and long-term economic well-being. It helps families pay their bills if their income drops due to unforeseen events such as a layoff or medical emergency. It also allows them to invest in their future by sending their children to college; moving to a desirable neighborhood due to, for instance, better schools; switching jobs; or starting a business. Yet wealth is highly unequally distributed in the United States—particularly by race and ethnicity. (see Appendix for more information) White families, for instance, have significantly more wealth than nonwhite families. There are a few institutions that help shrink this systematic divide; unions are one such institution.

Unions help increase the wealth for all workers. Indeed, previous Center for American Progress Action Fund research showed that a typical worker covered by a union contract has roughly twice the wealth of a typical nonunion worker. And new Center for American Progress analysis shows that unions boost wealth the most for those who are nonwhite.

Still a Man’s Labor Market: The Slowly Narrowing Gender Wage Gap

Source: Heidi I. Hartmann and Stephen J. Rose, Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), ID: C474, November 26, 2018

From the press release:
Women today earn just 49 cents to the typical men’s dollar, much less than the 80 cents usually reported, according to a new study by economists Heidi I. Hartmann and Stephen J. Rose released today by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR).

The study, Still a Man’s Labor Market: The Slowly Narrowing Gender Wage Gap, uses the Panel Study on Income Dynamics, a longitudinal dataset to look at the gender earnings gaps between men and women in 15-year time spans. When measured by total earnings across the most recent 15 years for all workers who worked in at least one year, women workers faced a wage gap of 51 percent in the 2001-2015 period. The analysis also found that while the long-term earnings gap has narrowed significantly since 1968, progress has slowed in the last 15 years.


Educational Inequality, Educational Expansion, and Intergenerational Income Persistence in the United States

Source: Deirdre Bloome, Shauna Dyer, Xiang Zhou, American Socialogical Review, Online First, November 14, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The children of high-income parents often become high-income adults, while their low-income peers often become low-income adults. Education plays a central role in this intergenerational income persistence. Because education-based inequalities grew in recent decades, many scholars predicted that intergenerational income persistence would increase. However, previous research suggests that it remained stable across recent cohorts. We address this puzzle. Analyzing National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth data, we find that growing educational inequality by parental income, along with rising economic returns to education, increased intergenerational persistence, as scholars expected. However, two countervailing trends offset this increase. The expansion of higher education reduced persistence, because completing college helps low-income children become high-income adults. Yet, this reduction in persistence was far from enough to offset the increase in persistence associated with growing educational inequality and rising educational returns. Intergenerational persistence would have increased if not for another change: within educational groups, parental income became less predictive of adult income. New methodological tools underlie these findings, tools that quantify, for the first time, education’s full force in intergenerational income persistence. These findings suggest that to reduce intergenerational persistence, educational policies should focus less on how many people complete college and more on who completes college.

Genes, Education, and Labor Market Outcomes: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study

Source: Nicholas W. Papageorge, Kevin Thom, NBER Working Paper No. 25114, September 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Recent advances have led to the discovery of specific genetic variants that predict educational attainment. We study how these variants, summarized as a linear index — known as a polygenic score — are associated with human capital accumulation and labor market outcomes in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). We present two main sets of results. First, we find evidence that the genetic factors measured by this score interact strongly with childhood socioeconomic status in determining educational outcomes. In particular, while the polygenic score predicts higher rates of college graduation on average, this relationship is substantially stronger for individuals who grew up in households with higher socioeconomic status relative to those who grew up in poorer households. Second, the polygenic score predicts labor earnings even after adjusting for completed education, with larger returns in more recent decades. These patterns suggest that the genetic traits that promote education might allow workers to better accommodate ongoing skill biased technological change. Consistent with this interpretation, we find a positive association between the polygenic score and non-routine analytic tasks that have benefited from the introduction of new technologies. Nonetheless, the college premium remains the dominant determinant of earnings differences at all levels of the polygenic score. Given the role of childhood SES in predicting college attainment, this raises concerns about wasted potential arising from limited household resources.

It’s better to be born rich than gifted
Source: Andrew Van Dam, Washington Post, Wonkblog, October 9, 2018

The least-gifted children of high-income parents graduate from college at higher rates than the most-gifted children of low-income parents.

Income data from the Census may not tell full story on middle-class trends

Source: Gary Burtless and Christopher Pulliam, Brookings Institution, Up Front, September 17, 2018

…. The resulting news stories deserve our attention, but it is important to keep a vital question in mind: Does the CPS give us an accurate picture of household incomes?

In many recent years, the answer has been “No.” Compared to the national income and product accounts (NIPA) produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the CPS often gives us a strikingly different picture of the recent trend in household income. ….

Damages Done: The Longitudinal Impacts of Natural Hazards on Wealth Inequality in the United States

Source: Junia Howell, James R Elliott, Social Problems, Advance Access, August 14, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study investigates a largely ignored contributor to wealth inequality in the United States: damages from natural hazards, which are expected to increase substantially in coming years. Instead of targeting a specific large-scale disaster and assessing how different subpopulations recover, we begin with a nationally representative sample of respondents from the restricted, geocoded Panel Study of Income Dynamics. We follow them through time (1999–2013) as hazard damages of varying scales accrue in the counties where they live. This design synthesizes the longitudinal, population-centered approach common in stratification research with a broad hazard-centered focus that extends beyond disasters to integrate ongoing environmental dynamics more centrally into the production of social inequality. Results indicate that as local hazard damages increase, so does wealth inequality, especially along lines of race, education, and homeownership. At any given level of local damage, the more aid an area receives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the more this inequality grows. These findings suggest that two defining social problems of our day – wealth inequality and rising natural hazard damages – are dynamically linked, requiring new lines of research and policy making in the future.

Does Socioeconomic Status Account for Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Childhood Cancer Survival?

Source: Rebecca D. Kehm, Logan G. Spector, Jenny N. Poynter, David M. Vock, Sean F. Altekruse, Theresa L. Osypuk, Cancer, Early View, First published: 20 August 2018

From the abstract:
For many childhood cancers, survival is lower among non‐Hispanic blacks and Hispanics in comparison with non‐Hispanic whites, and this may be attributed to underlying socioeconomic factors. However, prior childhood cancer survival studies have not formally tested for mediation by socioeconomic status (SES). This study applied mediation methods to quantify the role of SES in racial/ethnic differences in childhood cancer survival.

This study used population‐based cancer survival data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results 18 database for black, white, and Hispanic children who had been diagnosed at the ages of 0 to 19 years in 2000‐2011 (n = 31,866). Black‐white and Hispanic‐white mortality hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals, adjusted for age, sex, and stage at diagnosis, were estimated. The inverse odds weighting method was used to test for mediation by SES, which was measured with a validated census‐tract composite index.

Whites had a significant survival advantage over blacks and Hispanics for several childhood cancers. SES significantly mediated the race/ethnicity–survival association for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, neuroblastoma, and non‐Hodgkin lymphoma; SES reduced the original association between race/ethnicity and survival by 44%, 28%, 49%, and 34%, respectively, for blacks versus whites and by 31%, 73%, 48%, and 28%, respectively, for Hispanics versus whites ((log hazard ratio total effect – log hazard ratio direct effect)/log hazard ratio total effect).

SES significantly mediates racial/ethnic childhood cancer survival disparities for several cancers. However, the proportion of the total race/ethnicity–survival association explained by SES varies between black‐white and Hispanic‐white comparisons for some cancers, and this suggests that mediation by other factors differs across groups.

CEO compensation surged in 2017

Source: Lawrence Mishel and Jessica Schieder, Economic Policy Institute, August 16, 2018

What this report finds: This report looks at trends in chief executive officer (CEO) compensation, using two different measures. The first measure includes stock options realized (in addition to salary, bonuses, restricted stock grants, and long-term incentive payouts). By this measure, in 2017 the average CEO of the 350 largest firms in the U.S. received $18.9 million in compensation, a 17.6 percent increase over 2016. The typical worker’s compensation remained flat, rising a mere 0.3 percent. The 2017 CEO-to-worker compensation ratio of 312-to-1 was far greater than the 20-to-1 ratio in 1965 and more than five times greater than the 58-to-1 ratio in 1989 (although it was lower than the peak ratio of 344-to-1, reached in 2000). The gap between the compensation of CEOs and other very-high-wage earners is also substantial, with the CEOs in large firms earning 5.5 times as much as the average earner in the top 0.1 percent.

The surge in CEO compensation measured with realized stock options was driven by the stock-related components of CEO compensation (stock awards and cashed-in stock options), not by changes in salaries or cash bonuses.

Because the decision to realize, or cash in, stock options tends to fluctuate with current and potential stock market trends (as people tend to cash in their stock options when it is most advantageous to do so), we also look at another measure of CEO compensation, to get a more complete picture of trends in CEO compensation. This measure tracks the value of stock options at the time they are granted. By this measure, CEO compensation rose to $13.3 million in 2017, up from $13.0 million in 2016.

By either measure, CEO compensation is very high relative to the compensation of a typical worker—and an earner in the top 0.1 percent.

CEO compensation has grown far faster than stock prices or corporate profits. CEO compensation rose by 979 percent (based on stock options granted) or 1,070 percent (based on stock options realized) between 1978 and 2017. The corresponding 637 percent growth in the stock market (S & P Index) was far lower. Both measures of compensation are substantially greater than the painfully slow 11.2 percent growth in the typical worker’s compensation over the same period and at least three times as fast as the 308 percent growth of wages for the very highest earners, those in the top 0.1 percent….