Economic Inequality in the United States

By Lars Osberg | Go to book overview

4

POVERTY AND INEQUALITY

Material welfare has no significance except in its relation to men's
feelings and as an element in the psychological state called happiness.
And the extent of a man's happiness depends on the number and
intensity of the desires which he is able to satisfy relative to the number
and intensity of those which he is not able to satisfy.... in the search
for material welfare, our modern civilisation under conditions of
industrial progress is continually manufacturing new and previously
unwanted sources of pleasure, so that the old luxuries become the new
necessities, alike for those who can and those who cannot afford them.
Hence where there is a great inequality of purchasing power, a
continuous increase in the statistical total of goods and services
produced per head will no doubt enable a larger and larger proportion of
the people to satisfy certain wants, but will, equally certainly, increase
the number of wants which the majority desire to satisfy, and only the
minority can.

JOSIAH C. WEDGWOOD
The Economics of Inheritance (1929)


4.1 Introduction

What is the relationship between inequality and poverty? Has an increasing GNP largely eliminated poverty? Or is a redistribution of income necessary to reduce the distinctions between "rich" and "poor" in society? In this chapter, we consider alternative definitions of "poverty" and the connection between these concepts of poverty and the concept of inequality. We examine the problem of "measuring" poverty and we discuss, briefly, who "the poor" are and some of the consequences of their poverty.

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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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