Rich and Poor in America: A Reference Handbook

Rich and Poor in America: A Reference Handbook

Rich and Poor in America: A Reference Handbook

Rich and Poor in America: A Reference Handbook

Excerpt

The growing income gap between the richest Americans and the poorest, once barely noticed, is now widely known and debated. Front-page articles in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and many other mainstream news outlets have driven home the unsettling truth that the United States is growing more unequal, at least in economic terms. Some suggest that we are in a new Gilded Age, pointing to concentrations of wealth and income at the very top not seen since the 1920s or earlier. The public tends to focus less on the statistics and more on the glitz: private jets, mega-yachts, and palatial residences. Magazines and television programs are devoted to voyeuristic explorations of the lifestyles enjoyed by billionaires. And while the lifestyles of those at the opposite end of the income distribution sell very few magazines, there are indications that poverty—and the lengthening distance between society’s haves and have-nots—may be reentering the realm of political and policy debate, just in time for a presidential election.

This handbook is a primer on the dimensions, the trend lines, the causes, and the consequences of the widening gap between America’s rich and poor. It also considers some of the policy options for slowing or halting the current trend. There are strong differences of opinion about how seriously to take the “stretching out” of the income distribution, with liberals more likely and conservatives less likely to see it as problematic. Valid arguments can be made on both sides, and this book does not prejudge the question of whether the present degree of inequality exceeds what is acceptable or desirable. The real purpose of the book is merely to offer a handy, single-volume guide to an issue that is becoming more prominent with each passing year.

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