Chapter 2 discussed the distribution of annual money income among family units and households but for many purposes this is an inadequate description of inequality. Economic inequality can be broadly conceived of as differential command over resources, but there are many different types of resources. The aspect of economic inequality which we choose to emphasize will affect our perception of the extent of inequality; it will color our understanding of its causes and, as we will see in Chapters 8 and 9, it will "fit" with only some of the explanations of inequality which exist.
In this chapter, section 3.2 discusses the distribution of economic power while section 3.3 concerns the measurement of the inequality of wealth and of riches. Section 3.4 is a brief summary of evidence on long‐ term trends in the distribution of wealth. Section 3.5 considers the adjustments for omitted types of income, family size, and lifetime income which can be made to the income distribution statistics of Chapter 2. Section 3.6 is a brief international comparison and section 3.7 is a summary and conclusion.
All of these topics are highly controversial. Data limitations are particularly important elements of the controversy underlying the discussion of economic power and of wealth. In addition, the inequality of lifetime consumption has not been directly observed. The estimates which we discuss of behavior over time are extrapolations from cross‐ sectional evidence on differences at a point in time and may not be reliable. This chapter does not, naturally, provide the last word on any of these issues since they have a depth and a history which renders final resolution impossible for many generations to come, but it does attempt to outline the main features of current debate.
Imagine yourself as the chief executive officer of one of America's top 200 corporations. Perhaps your company is not as big as Exxon, with