Economic Inequality in the United States

By Lars Osberg | Go to book overview

10

AN ECLECTIC SUMMARY

It has now become certain that the problem of distribution is much more
difficult than it was thought to be by earlier economists, and that no
solution of it which claims to be simple can be true. Most of the old
attempts to give an easy answer to it, were really answers to imaginary
questions that might have arisen in other worlds than ours, in which the
conditions of life were very simple. The work done in answering these
questions was not wasted. For a very difficult problem can best be
solved by being broken into pieces; and each of these simple questions
contained a part of the great and difficult problem which we have to
solve.

ALFRED MARSHALL
Principles of Economics, 8th edition (1913:510)


10.1 Explanations: The Problem of Choice

10.1.1 Income Determination and Income Distribution Chapters 2 through 4 discussed the extent of economic inequality and poverty; Chapters 5 through 9 presented some theories. There are two sets of questions to be asked. First, what factors are responsible for the distribution of economic resources in America? In particular:

A. Why does this degree of economic inequality exist?

B. Why has income and wealth inequality been so constant over the period since World War II?

C. Why do differences in inequality exist between countries and between regions of the same country?

A second set of questions revolves around the factors which determine the economic resources of particular individuals and families. Specifically:

A. Why do the children of poor parents have a greater chance of being poor themselves? How do the children of advantaged families "inherit" the status of their parents?

-184-

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Economic Inequality in the United States
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Economic Inequality in the United States *
  • Contents *
  • Preface ix
  • Economic Inequality in the United States *
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • 2 - Inequality in Money Income 9
  • 3 - Economic Inequality 32
  • 4 - Poverty and Inequality 61
  • 5 - Of Laborers and Capitalists— the Issue of Factor Shares 85
  • 6 - Of Chance and Ability 100
  • 7 - Of Race and Sex 115
  • 8 - The "Neoclassical" Perspective: the Implications of Choice 130
  • 9 - Structural Interpretations: the Importance of Constraints 162
  • 10 - An Eclectic Summary 184
  • 11 - The Acquisition of Property 195
  • 12 - Growth And/Or Equality? 220
  • 13 - Government and Inequality 234
  • 14 - Conclusion 256
  • Bibliography 267
  • Index of Names 291
  • Index of Subjects 296
  • About the Author 307
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