Inequality in America

April 17, 2020 • Volume 30, Issue 15
Can the growing wealth gap be closed?
By Tom Price


Inequality in the United States is at its highest level in a half-century, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The richest 0.1 percent of households owns between 15 and 20 percent of all U.S. wealth, while the bottom half owns just 1 percent. But this wealth gap is only one part of the problem, economists say. Inequality also extends to education, with the poor lagging the more affluent in academic achievement, and to regions, where high-tech centers are leaving behind areas dependent on agriculture or manufacturing. The coronavirus pandemic, meanwhile, is sending unemployment soaring and is widening the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. Conservatives and liberals agree that inequality exists, but differ sharply about what should be done. Democrats propose raising taxes on the rich, expanding health insurance for the poor and spending more on public education at all levels. But conservatives say inequality is a natural byproduct of a prosperous free-market economy and warn that wealth taxes would harm growth and ultimately hurt workers.

Randall Grey (Getty Images/Corbis/Sandy Huffaker)
Randall Grey holds a sign during a 2011 protest in San Diego against Wall Street and corporate power. Income inequality has increased in the past decade, according to government agencies and economists. (Getty Images/Corbis/Sandy Huffaker)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Cost of Living and Wages
Apr. 17, 2020  Inequality in America
Sep. 08, 2017  Universal Basic Income
Apr. 08, 2016  Future of the Middle Class
Apr. 18, 2014  Wealth and Inequality
Jan. 24, 2014  Minimum Wage
Jun. 19, 2009  Rethinking Retirement
Mar. 06, 2009  Middle-Class Squeeze
Mar. 14, 2008  Gender Pay Gap
Dec. 16, 2005  Minimum Wage
Sep. 27, 2002  Living-Wage Movement
Apr. 17, 1998  Income Inequality
Oct. 27, 1978  Wage-Price Controls
Jun. 16, 1978  Military Pay and Benefits
Mar. 23, 1966  Rising Cost of Living
Oct. 25, 1961  Price-Wage Restraints in National Emergencies
Jun. 21, 1961  Wage Policy in Recovery
Jun. 11, 1958  Prices and Wages in the Recession
Sep. 18, 1957  Control of Living Costs
Nov. 02, 1955  Wages, Prices, Profits
Jan. 26, 1954  Minimum Wage Raise
Jan. 02, 1954  Cost of Living
Jan. 21, 1953  Guaranteed Annual Wage
Dec. 17, 1952  Future of Price and Wage Controls
Nov. 19, 1951  Fringe Benefits and Wage Stabilization
Dec. 06, 1950  Wage Control
Jun. 13, 1949  Wages in Deflation
Jun. 04, 1947  Guarantees of Wages and Employment
Oct. 29, 1946  Decontrol of Wages
Dec. 01, 1945  Minimum Wages
Sep. 29, 1945  Wage Policy
Oct. 27, 1944  Wage Security
May 17, 1943  Incentive Wage Payments
Aug. 25, 1941  Prices, Profits, and Wage Control
Apr. 28, 1941  Wartime Changes in the Cost of Living
Sep. 21, 1940  Two Years of the Wage-Hour Law
Nov. 01, 1938  Industry and Labor Under the Wage-Hour Act
Jan. 20, 1938  Wage Rates and Workers' Incomes
Apr. 11, 1935  The Cost of Living in the United States
Sep. 01, 1930  Wages and the Cost of Living
May 24, 1930  The Anthracite Wage Agreement
Feb. 20, 1925  Measure of Recovery in Profits and Wages Since 1920–21 Depression
Congress Actions
Conservatism and Liberalism
Consumer Behavior
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Economic Crises
Fair Housing and Housing for Special Groups
General Employment and Labor
Infectious Diseases
Low Income and Public Housing
Party Politics
Party Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Regional Planning and Urbanization
Unemployment and Employment Programs
Work and the Family