Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

News Income Inequality

  1. Feb 21, 2010 #1
    There was a thread a while back where I claimed that inequality is more important than poverty when it comes to crime and other social problems. I don't think anybody agreed with me. Anyway, I found an interesting link with information about it:
    http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2009/03/13/inequality.pdf

    It shows that the US has the highest income inequality in the free world and has the most prisoners, obese people, depressed people and teen pregnancies per population. There is a strong correlation shown across all countries included between income inequality and the above quantities. The study also claims that the wealth of the country has little bearing on these.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 21, 2010 #2

    Astronuc

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I don't know how well controlled that study would be.

    I suspect it has to do with the standard of living of those in the middle or bottom.

    Interestingly - http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/02/19-5

    http://karws.gso.uri.edu/jfk/conspiracy_theory/the_paranoid_mentality/the_paranoid_style.html [Broken]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  4. Feb 21, 2010 #3
    Well it compares the top fifth with the bottom fifth. Most of the statistics seem quite objective - e.g. income, prison population, homicide rate, infant death rate ...
     
  5. Feb 21, 2010 #4
    The Obama administration reversed a Bush policy of not allowing the release of statistical data about the top 400 incomes.

    http://www.tax.com/taxcom/features.nsf/5379826c02267cd485257173000d68e0/0dec0eaa7e4d7a2b852576cd00714692/$FILE/Chart-1.pdf" [Broken]

    The rich keep getting richer because they control the game.

    The Republican party is a wholly owned subsidiary and the Democrats are negotiating a buyout.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  6. Feb 21, 2010 #5

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I certainly don't.
    That probably has more to do with the shape of the curve at the bottom than the difference between the bottom and the top. Eurpoean countries have more socialism than the US, which props up the bottom. If Bill Gates and Warren Buffett move to England, it won't change the amount of crime or amount of money the lower end has.

    Also, it is tough to compare countries that all have a very high level of development. The signal to noise ratio in the data is very low because the differences are small.

    The usual case study on income inequality and development is China, which has seen its income inequality rise recently while its poverty has dropped dramatically. Some numbers....

    Page 17, China's GDP more than doubled from 1989-1999: http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/macarthur/inequality/papers/PikettyQian2004.pdf

    Page 38, from 1991-2000, China's gini went from .37 to .44: https://www.msu.edu/~gilesj/BBGW.pdf

    A quote from that one:
    Page 9, the poverty rate in China dropped from 11.6 in 1989 to 3.4 in 1999 (note, they use a vastly lower poverty line than we do): http://www.nscb.gov.ph/poverty/conference/papers/4_poverty statistics in china.pdf
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  7. Feb 21, 2010 #6

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Interesting. The poor don't control the game - how have they kept getting richer? Are the rich pulling the poor up?
    That doesn't make any sense at all - the top 400 Americans only make an average of around $400k? That must be an order of magnitude (or more!) too low. Baseball's league minimum is $400k and football's is $300k. I bet there's more than 400 people in those two groups alone.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2010
  8. Feb 21, 2010 #7

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    The chart is done in 1000's of dollars. Odd... not sure why they didn't just say millions. In any case, 400 people to show something about 300 million?
     
  9. Feb 21, 2010 #8
    "Propping up" the bottom is what reduces the inequality - they are propped up by taxes from those at the top. The fact that European countries have more socialism is the reason they have less inequality, it's not a separate complicating factor.

    Did you look at the graphs? They are all developed countries and the trend is very clear. On pretty much every issue the US is out on its own with a big gap to the next worst.

    The article is not about income equality and its link to poverty. It's about whether income inequality or poverty are responsible for a variety of social problems. And the study shows that it is income inequality that is responsible.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  10. Feb 21, 2010 #9
    The short answer is, they're not. Two thirds of the wealth generated by economic growth goes to the top 1%. That leaves the smallest slice for the other 99%.

    However that should change since historically the poor fair much better under democratic administrations.


    The figures are in 1000's of dollars, the average top 400 incomes in 2007 were $344,759,000.
     
  11. Feb 21, 2010 #10

    CRGreathouse

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Skyhunter, these sentences appear to be contradictory. Would you clarify?
     
  12. Feb 21, 2010 #11

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Ooops.....that was dumb.
     
  13. Feb 21, 2010 #12

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    They're not what? The rich aren't pulling up the poor? Then how exactly are the poor getting richer? You do know that the poor are getting richer (historically), right? I mean we've probably discussed it a dozen times a year for the past 5 years. By now, you must know where to find the income data that shows it, right?
    You do realize that that has nothing at all to do with the issue (fact) of if the poor are getting richer, right?
    It's not that they are contradictory, they just don't have anything to do with each other. It's a red herring argument tactic: trying to make an argument that one thing is bad by saying something else bad is related to it - even though it really isn't.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2010
  14. Feb 22, 2010 #13
    I don't find this surprising at all. Wealth envy is rampant and promoted by many politicians to stir up hatred and gain power.

    And the fact that the poor today are much better off than the middle class of a few decades ago is less important to some than the unimportant fact that rich people have more "dollars", despite the fact that those "dollars" of the rich simply do not represent buying power that could theoretically be transferred to the poor. It only works that way in the propaganda of the power hungry and the minds of those that don't know any better, not in reality.

    And it seems obvious to me that one can't advocate the use of force to "redistribute wealth" and simultaneously claim that theft and robbery are inherently wrong, independently of their illegality.
     
  15. Feb 22, 2010 #14
    The poor are not getting richer. Their share of American wealth is getting smaller and smaller. While the cost of living keeps getting higher and higher. The vast majority of all created wealth goes to the top 1%. The Trickle down theory of economics does not work for the poor.

    Beginning with Reagonomincs, the percentage of the population living in poverty here in America stopped declining, and started growing. In 1993 under Clinton it began to decline again. Enter Bush and rates once more begin to rise.

    Bottom line, historically Republican economic policy promotes poverty.
     
  16. Feb 22, 2010 #15
    Depends on how you measure "poor"...the slice they get is as small as ever.

    So how do you think the rich get rich? Where do you think all their money originates from?
    As a percentage of income, I'm quite sure the poor contribute much more to the rich than vice-versa.

    The rich "pulling up the poor" is just as ridiculous a concept as "trickle down".
     
  17. Feb 22, 2010 #16
    Have you spent any time in a third world country? The poor in America are only poor in comparison to other Americans. They are rich in comparison to the poor in most parts of the world. Not only are the poor here well fed, they have the most opportunity to not be poor if they so choose.

    I'm not one to promote a political party but doesn't welfare in its current form, typically championed by the Dems, promote poverty?
     
  18. Feb 22, 2010 #17

    mheslep

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    There is likely a strong correlation about several factors and those social ills. Heterogenous populations are the first that come to my mind. The US is big melting pot, Japan has a relatively homogeneous population with nil immigration.
     
  19. Feb 22, 2010 #18

    mheslep

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Yes they are. The stats have been shown several times in these forums. The case of China since the onset of free markets there was posted above.
    Maybe, though I doubt it, but that doesn't mean the poor are worse off. The pie is growing, and the poor have an increasing standard of living in the US.
     
  20. Feb 22, 2010 #19

    russ_watters

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Skyhunter, you need to cite data to support your claim that the poor are getting poorer or retract the claim. It is factually wrong and you've participated in this discussion enough times for you to know it.
     
  21. Feb 22, 2010 #20
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook