Category Archives: Income Inequality/Gap

Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States

Source: Matthew Gardner, Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy, November 18, 2009

From the press release:
By an overwhelming margin, most states tax their middle- and low-income families far more heavily than the wealthy, according to a new study by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy.

Nationwide, the study found that middle- and low-income non-elderly families pay much higher shares of their income in state and local taxes than do the very well-off:
– The average state and local tax rate on the best-off one percent of families is 6.4 percent before accounting for the tax savings from federal itemized deductions. After the federal offset, the effective tax rate on the best off one percent is a mere 5.2 percent.
– The average tax rate on families in the middle 20 percent of the income spectrum is 9.7 percent before the federal offset and 9.4 percent after–almost twice the effective rate that the richest people pay.
– The average tax rate on the poorest 20 percent of families is the highest of all. At 10.9 percent, it is more than double the effective rate on the very wealthy
See also:
State Specific Fact Sheets

Changes in the Distribution of Workers’ Annual Earnings Between 1979 and 2007

Source: Congressional Budget Office, Pub. No. 4006, October 2009

From the CBO blog entry:
Understanding how the annual earnings of workers have changed over time is integral to projecting possible changes in such earnings in the future and considering government tax and spending policies that affect workers. Last week CBO released a paper documenting changes in workers’ annual earnings during the past three decades.

The paper first describes changes between 1979 and 2007 in the annual (inflation-adjusted) earnings of workers ages 25 to 54. CBO found, as depicted in the figures below, that men with relatively low, median, and relatively high earnings (specifically, men at the 10th, 50th, and 90th percentiles of their earnings distribution) earned more than women in the same position of their own earnings distribution in 2007, and that those differences were smaller in 2007 than in 1979.

Income, Poverty And Health Insurance Coverage In The United States: 2008

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Press Release, CB09-141, September 10, 2009

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that real median household income in the United States fell 3.6 percent between 2007 and 2008, from $52,163 to $50,303. This breaks a string of three years of annual income increases and coincides with the recession that started in December 2007.

The nation’s official poverty rate in 2008 was 13.2 percent, up from 12.5 percent in 2007. There were 39.8 million people in poverty in 2008, up from 37.3 million in 2007.

Meanwhile, the number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 45.7 million in 2007 to 46.3 million in 2008, while the percentage remained unchanged at 15.4 percent.

The Market Defense

Source: Sharon Rabin-Margalioth, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliyah – Radzyner School of Law, working draft, July 29, 2009

From the abstract:
Too often women encounter the argument that pay disparity is the outcome of market forces and not sex discrimination. Salary differentials are attributed to individual pay demands, bargaining effectiveness, external counteroffers and/or prior salaries. These are just a few examples of market justifications employers raise to explain why similar workers performing the same job are compensated differently.

This paper argues that, in most cases, market justifications for pay disparity in equal pay for equal work litigation should be rejected. The paper then takes on the more ambitious project of proposing an alternative model of gender discrimination, which is not restricted to causation.

Labour Law and the New Inequality

Source: Michael S. Lynk, University of New Brunswick Law Journal, forthcoming

From the abstract:
Rising economic inequality in Canada and the Western world has become an unspoken but influential political theme over the past quarter century. The Great Compression between the late 1940s and the 1980s – which brought an unlamented end to the pre-war Gilded Age and its social inequities, established a post-war middle-class society in the industrial democracies, and created a host of equalizing institutions, including a vibrant union movement – has been unravelling since the rise of modern political conservatism. A hydraulic relationship exists between unionization and inequality. Countries that have higher unionization rates tend to have lower patterns of economic inequality. And as unionization rates decline, inequality tends to rise. In Canada, the political impulse to reform labour laws has been waning since the early 1990s, shortly after Canadian unions had reached their numerical zenith. As income and wealth inequality levels rose, labour’s share of the Gross Domestic Product has declined to record lows in the post-war era, wages have stagnated and most of the economic productivity gains over the past 25 years have been captured by those at the very top of the income scale. One significant explanation for the eroding levels of unionization in Canada has been the country’s stagnant labour laws. In particular, statutory changes to the union certification process in a number of Canadian jurisdictions has diminished the ability of unions to protect their representational levels. Empirical social science suggests that labour laws matter, not only for unionization levels, but as an important tool to enhance economic egalitarianism.

Inequality and Specialization: The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs in the United States

Source: David Autor, David Dorn, IZA Discussion Papers, 4290, July 2009

From the abstract:
After a decade in which wages and employment fell precipitously in low-skill occupations and expanded in high-skill occupations, the shape of U.S. earnings and job growth sharply polarized in the 1990s. Employment shares and relative earnings rose in both low and high-skill jobs, leading to a distinct U-shaped relationship between skill levels and employment and wage growth. This paper analyzes the sources of the changing shape of the lower-tail of the U.S. wage and employment distributions. A first contribution is to document a hitherto unknown fact: the twisting of the lower tail is substantially accounted for by a single proximate cause − rising employment and wages in low-education, in-person service occupations. We study the determinants of this rise at the level of local labor markets over the period of 1950 through 2005. Our approach is rooted in a model of changing task specialization in which “routine” clerical and production tasks are displaced by automation. We find that in labor markets that were initially specialized in routine-intensive occupations, employment and wages polarized after 1980, with growing employment and earnings in both high-skill occupations and low-skill service jobs.

Unequal Unemployment – Racial disparities in unemployment vary widely by state

Source: Algernon Austin, Economic Policy Institute, EPI Issue Brief #257, July 21, 2009

From the summary:
The labor market crisis is breaking national records each month, with no end in sight. The heaviest burden is falling on blacks and Hispanics, who are contending with much higher unemployment rates than whites nationally–about one-and-a-half times as high for Hispanics and twice as high for blacks. According to an updated analysis through the second quarter of 2009 and new projections through 2010, the trend has worsened and is likely to continue to do so.
See also:
State Unemployment Trends by Race, Ethnicity and Gender

The Widening Canada-US Income Gap

Source: Benjamin Tal, Consumer Watch Canada, June 9, 2009

For every dollar increase in Americans’ real per capita disposable income during the past four years, Canadians have seen their income rise by two dollars. Since 2005, per capita real disposable income in the US has risen by just over $1,300 (US). In Canada, it has risen by $2,600 (Cdn). And the good news is that the post-recession economy will see this trend continue.

Do Rising Top Incomes Lift All Boats?

Source: Dan Andrews, Christopher Jencks, Andrew Leigh, Harvard University – John F. Kennedy School of Government, HKS Working Paper No. RWP09_18, June 15, 2009

From the abstract:
Pooling data for 1905 to 2000, we find no systematic relationship between top income shares and economic growth in a panel of 12 developed nations observed for between 22 and 85 years. After 1960, however, a one percentage point rise in the top decile’s income share is associated with a statistically significant 0.12 point rise in GDP growth during the following year. This relationship is not driven by changes in either educational attainment or top tax rates. If the increase in inequality is permanent, the increase in growth appears to be permanent, but it takes 13 years for the cumulative positive effect of faster growth on the mean income of the bottom nine deciles to offset the negative effect of reducing their share of total income.

The Gender Pay Gap

Source: American Association of University Women, April 22, 2009

From the press release:
To commemorate Equal Pay Day, April 28, 2009, AAUW has released a new state-by-state earnings comparison by gender that shows that the wage gap is stubbornly in place despite the overall positive effect a college degree has on women workers. Observing Equal Pay Day reminds the nation of the gross inequities facing women, who must work from January 2008 through April 2009 to earn what their male counterparts received in 2008 alone.
See also:
Map data explained
Map data table