Category Archives: Income Inequality/Gap

Detaining Democracy? Criminal Justice and American Civic Life

Source: Edited by: Christopher Wildeman, Jacob S. Hacker and Vesla M. Weaver, ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, January 2014
(subscription required)

From the extract:
“We Mail Books to Prison.” So reads the sign adorning the window of a bookshop tucked away in a struggling corner of Trenton, New Jersey. It communicates the obvious—an available service—but also something less innocuous: many of the shop’s customers have loved ones in prison. It communicates something else, too: the effects of prison are not as distant from this troubled neighborhood as the prison itself might be. Following the opposite course of the books, the effects of incarceration feed back into the communities from which prisoners come and to which most of them will return. In a nation where the capacity to punish and surveil has witnessed stunning expansion over the last generation, “We Mail Books to Prison” is a reminder that the state’s role as arbiter and enforcer of criminal law now represents one of the most powerful influences on the social and civic fabric of communities across the nation, affecting everything from the socialization of children to the political participation of residents.

We live in the midst of what may be the most visible and transformative government intervention since the 1960s. The number of prisoners has multiplied fivefold in just 35 years. At the same time, other types of criminal justice contact—from the use of misdemeanor charges (Natapoff 2012) to stop-and-frisks (to brief detentions based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity rather than probable cause)—have dramatically increased as well (Fagan et al. 2010). In the words of historian William Novak, “The power of the U.S. government to regulate, study, order, discipline, and punish its citizens . . . has never been greater” (2008, 760).

This power has not been felt equally by all Americans. For most, it is virtually invisible. For men of color—especially those who reside in the poorest neighborhoods—and for the people close to ….

Articles include:
Incarceration and Social Inequality: Challenges and Directions for Future Research
by Kristin Turney

Mass Imprisonment and Trust in the Law
by Christopher Muller and Daniel Schrage

How the Criminal Justice System Educates Citizens
by Benjamin Justice and Tracey L. Meares

Detention, Democracy, and Inequality in a Divided Society

by Glenn C. Loury

Do Voting Rights Notification Laws Increase Ex-Felon Turnout?
by Marc Meredith and Michael Morse

Locked In? Conservative Reform and the Future of Mass Incarceration
by David Dagan and Steven M. Teles

Incarceration, Inequality, and Imagining Alternatives
by Bruce Western

Mass Incarceration and American Democracy
Source: Scholars Strategy Network, Scholar Spotlight, 2014

A Big Gap: Income Inequality in the District Remains One of the Highest in the Nation

Source: Caitlin Biegler, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, March 8, 2014

From the summary:
The richest five percent of District households have an average income of $473,000, the highest among the 50 largest cities in the United States. Meanwhile, the poorest 20 percent of District households have incomes averaging under $10,000. As a result, income inequality in DC — the gap between rich and poor — is tremendous. It is third highest among the nation’s largest cities.

An analysis of data from the 2010 American Community Survey suggests that while the District’s economy has led to economic growth and prosperity for many on the middle and higher rungs of the ladder, residents on the bottom of the income scale largely are being left behind.

Highlights of the findings:
– The average income among the top five percent of households in DC — $473,000 — is the highest among the 50 largest U.S. cities. This is far higher than the $292,000 average income of the top five percent among all large U.S. cities.
– The average income among the top 20 percent of DC households — $259,000 — is higher than in every city except San Francisco.
– The poorest DC households by contrast — those in the bottom fifth by income — had an average income of $9,100. This is close to the average among the largest U.S. cities.
– The gap between high-income and low-income households in the District is the third-highest among the 50 largest cities, after Atlanta and Boston. In DC, the average income of the top fifth is 29 times the income of the bottom fifth. Among the 50 largest U.S. cities, the average income of the top fifth of households is 18 times the income of the bottom fifth.
– The substantial income inequality in DC reflects both a significant concentration of the metro area’s high income and low-income populations. The poverty rate in the metropolitan Washington suburbs is 7.1 percent, while the poverty rate in the District is nearly three times higher, at 19.2 percent. This is one of the highest central city and suburban poverty disparities among large cities in the nation.

Wall Street Bonuses and the Minimum Wage

Source: Sarah Anderson, Institute For Policy Studies, March 12, 2014

From the summary:
The New York financial industry’s bonus pool exceeded the annual earnings of the more than 1 million Americans who work full-time at the federal minimum wage. Wall Street banks handed out $26.7 billion in bonuses to their 165,200 employees last year. That amount would be enough to more than double the pay for all 1,085,000 Americans who work full-time at the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. ….

Poorer families are bearing the brunt of college price hikes, data show

Source: Jon Marcus and Holly K. Hacker, The Hechinger Report, the Education Writers Association, and the Dallas Morning News, March 9, 2014

America’s colleges and universities are quietly shifting the burden of their big tuition increases onto low-income students, while many higher-income families are seeing their college costs rise more slowly, or even fall, an analysis of federal data shows. It’s a trend financial-aid experts and some university administrators worry will further widen the gap between the nation’s rich and poor as college degrees—especially four-year ones—drift beyond the economic reach of growing numbers of students…. In fact, lower-income and working-class students at private colleges and universities have seen the amount they pay, after grants and scholarships, increase faster than the amount their middle- and upper-income classmates pay, according to an analysis of data that institutions are required to report to the U.S. Department of Education. …. Wealthier students still pay more for college educations, on average. But, to help colleges maintain enrollment numbers, keep revenue rolling in, and raise standings in annual rankings, these students are getting billions of dollars in discounts and institutional financial aid that many critics say should go instead to their lower-income classmates. …

Tuition Tracker
Source: The Hechinger Report, the Education Writers Association, Omaha World-Herald and the Dallas Morning News, 2014

Don’t let the sticker price fool you. This tool shows what students really pay for college, based on their family income. We’ve got trends, too. Search from more than 3,000 colleges and universities in the United States.

How some families pay less for college than others
Source: Holly K. Hacker, The Hechinger Report, the Education Writers Association, and the Dallas Morning News, March 9, 2014

College, federal financial aid increasingly benefits the rich
Source: Jon Marcus, The Hechinger Report, the Education Writers Association, and the Dallas Morning News, March 9, 2014

Wage Policy as an Essential Ingredient in a Democratic Society

Source: Oren M. Levin-Waldman, Journal of Workplace Rights, Volume 17, Number 1, 2012-2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In this article, I argue that wage policy is an essential ingredient in the maintenance of democratic society for the following reasons. First, it raises the wages of those at the bottom, and thereby gives workers more independence and power as they are placed on a more equal footing with managers. This is not just a matter of affording low-wage workers greater monopoly power, as James Galbraith (1998) suggested; it is a matter of enabling these workers to develop their capabilities and thus enhance their freedom as suggested by Amartya Sen (1999). Second, because wage policy through wage contour effects might increase median wages for the middle class, it has the potential to arrest wage stagnation, thereby forming the foundation of a jobs policy. This alone forms an essential ingredient in the maintenance of democratic society: economic development. And third, by adding to personal autonomy and benefiting the middle class, wage policy can also result in reduced income inequality.

A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter

Source: Claudia Goldin, American Economic Review, Vol. 104 no. 4, 2014

The converging roles of men and women are among the grandest advances in society and the economy in the last century. These aspects of the grand gender convergence are figurative chapters in a history of gender roles. But what must the “last” chapter contain for there to be equality in the labor market? The answer may come as a surprise. The solution does not (necessarily) have to involve government intervention and it need not make men more responsible in the home (although that wouldn’t hurt). But it must involve changes in the labor market, especially how jobs are structured and remunerated to enhance temporal flexibility. The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might vanish altogether if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who labored long hours and worked particular hours. Such change has taken off in various sectors, such as technology, science, and health, but is less apparent in the corporate, financial, and legal worlds.
How to End the Gender Pay Gap Once and for All
Source: Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, March 4, 2014
A Harvard economist makes the case that greater autonomy and work flexibility would bring us closer to equal pay.

Diverging top and converging bottom: labour flexibilization and changes in career mobility in the USA

Source: Young-Mi Kim, Work Employment & Society, Vol. 27 no. 5, October 2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The purpose of this study is to explore changes in career mobility in the US labour market during the late 1990s and early 2000s, a period in which career boundaries weakened and workers’ employment options became increasingly flexible. Using multiple panel data of a nationally representative sample of US employees between 1990 and 2003, the pattern of workers’ short-term movement across various types of boundaries in the labour market is analysed, as well as change over time and by skill group. The result shows that although the probability of switching firms increased for all workers, the career trajectories of lower-skilled groups showed increasingly opposite trends from those of higher-skilled groups. In particular, occupational immobility was reduced significantly for workers in lower-skilled occupations, yet their changes of occupation occurred mainly within their origin class, resulting in strengthening of class boundaries. Implications of this finding are discussed in light of recent debate on class stratification.

New corporate elites and the erosion of the Keynesian social compact

Source: Anne Daguerre, Work Employment & Society, Published online before print September 26, 2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The role of corporate elites – notably financial elites – has been at the forefront of political debates in Western capitalist societies since the start of the Great Recession in 2008. The major structural unbalances that had accumulated in Anglo-American economies over the last quarter of the 20th century played a key role in the build up to the financial crisis. Taking advantage of the mobility of capital, business elites promoted a model of shareholder capitalism actively backed up by the state. A process of elite competition took place: financial intermediaries acting on behalf of institutional investors marginalized the alliance between traditional managerial elites and workers that had been at the heart of the Keynesian compromise. This contribution outlines the consequences of the unravelling of the 20th century social pact for workers and their families. It concludes by outlining ‘what is to be done’ to forge a 21st century social pact.

Occupational segregation and gender inequality in job quality: a multi-level approach

Source: Haya Stier, Meir Yaish, Work Employment & Society, Published online before print, February 26, 2014

From the abstract:
Gender differences in perceived quality of employment (achievement, content, job insecurity, time autonomy and physical and emotional conditions) are examined. The study asks whether women’s occupations provide better conditions in areas that facilitate their dual role in society, as a trade-off for low monetary rewards. Specifically, it examines the association of women’s concentration in broader occupational categories, embedded in particular national contexts, with gender differences in job quality. Utilizing the 2005 ISSP modules on work orientation shows that women lag behind men on most dimensions of job quality, countering the hypothesis that women’s occupations compensate for their low wages and limited opportunities for promotion by providing better employment conditions. However, as women’s relative share in occupations grows the gender gap narrows in most job quality dimensions. The implications of these results are discussed.
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