Saturday, July 05, 2008

savage inequalities


    Within the United States:

  • In 2004, the Average Income in the U.S. was $60, 528, while the Median Income was only $43,389. Since 2000, when George W. Bush took office, this gap between the mean income and the median income, which has long been the widest among rich countries, has grown even wider. After adjusting for inflation, the median American household earns less than it did in 2000, while the earnings of the richest Americans increased dramatically. (sources 1&2)
  • U.S. labor productivity has increased by more than 15% since 1995, but the real incomes of the bottom half of American incomes have either barely increased or declined. (source 2)

  • The U.S. average (or "mean" or "per capita") income is almost always at the very top of global rankings, but because its income distribution skews toward the rich, its median income ranks about tenth. (source 2)
  • 42% of the world's billionaires are Americans, yet approximately one out of five American children live in poverty. (source 3, source 4)
  • The poverty rate for children, at over 21%, is far higher than for any other age group. (Interestingly, the poverty rate among the elderly, after declining dramatically from 35.2 percent in 1959 to 12.2 percent in 1990, has since then been lower than for the rest of the population. And while senior citizens tend to vote at a higher rate than other adult age groups, children, of course, cannot vote. This is perhaps informative especially when considering issues such as health care: Medicare, guaranteed to all citizens over 65 years of age, is generally a much better form of insurance than Medicaid, which serves poor children, and it is also not guaranteed to even all children who are not covered by any other type of insurance (occasionally poor children, and often the "near-poor," or even children of lower-middle-class parents who cannot afford the rising cost of medical coverage.)) (source 2)


(Photograph by Bobby Diba)

  • In 2006, for all full-time workers, men's median income was $42,210, while women who worked full time had a median income of $32,649. (source 1)
  • More than two out of three adults who are impoverished in the United States are women. This higher incidence of poverty, together with the rising share of households headed by women, has led to what researchers call the "feminization of poverty," with an increasing fraction of the poor in female-headed households. In 1990 this fraction was at 37.5 percent, and it has continued to increase. (sources1, 2, & 4)
  • The poverty rate among black households at 31.9 percent in 1990 was three times as high as the rate among white households. (sources 2 & 4 )
  • The percentage of non-Hispanic whites living in poverty in 2006 was 9.3% whereas 25.5% of blacks lived in poverty that year, and 21.5% of Hispanics of all races were impoverished. The race with the highest likelihood of living in poverty was Native Americans: 26.6% of them lived in poverty. (source 1)
  • The top 20% of income-earning households' share of all U.S. income was 50% in 2006, while the bottom 20% of households shared only 3.4% of all U.S. income. (source 1) (note: The data for the actual bottom 20% is most likely much more bleak, however, as it does not include the "absolutely" homeless, who are those individuals and families with no residence whatsoever (notice that the Census reports here on households), and most likely does not include most other homeless families and individuals who have some type of temporary residence, such as motels that charge by the week or month: As Barbara Ehrenreich explains in Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting By in America, "Long-term motel residents are almost certainly undercounted, since motel owners often deny access to census takers and the residents themselves may be reluctant to admit they live in motels, crowded in with as many as four or more people in a room." (page 140) And if the homeless were included, this would of course change the overall picture, making the inequities even more extreme, especially for the bottom 40% as some of those who the Census counts as being in the bottom 20% would then be pushed up into the next quintile as the homeless are usually the poorest of the poor and would be in the bottom 20%.
  • Representative of all other recent years, in 2006 U.S. households shared income as follows: *top 20%=50% of income *The second highest 20%=23% *The middle20%=14.8% *The second lowest 20%=8.8% *The lowest 20%=3.4% (source 1) (note from above applies here as well)
  • 50% of the children in the U.S. who drop out of high-school come from only12% of the school districts. These school districts tend to be disproportionately poor, as well as disproportionately urban and rural, and disproportionately African-American and Hispanic. (source 5)



  • Of the 221 countries (most territories, such as U.S. Guam and Puerto Rico, are counted as countries as well) of the world, life expectency is highest in the western-European country of Andorra, where it is 83.52 years, while life expectency is the lowest in the sub-Saharan country of Swaziland, where it is 32.23 years. (The richest country, by many measures, in the world, the United States, ranks 45th, with a lower life expectancy than Bosnia, Jordan, Bermuda, and Guam, among others. ) Other countries that fare well include Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, France, and Canada. Other countries at the bottom of the list include Haiti, Afghanistan, and many sub-Saharan countries such as Niger, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and Malawi. (sources 6&7)
  • The total net worth of the 1,125 richest people in the world is $4.4 trillion, while 1.2 billion people in the world live on less than $1 a day. (source 3, source 8)
  • The average American home runs a washing machine, on average, approximately two times a day, and runs a dishwasher slightly over once a day on average, while 12 million people around the world die every year from a lack of water. (source 8) (This data was particularly startling and sobering to me, especially as someone who spends probably 15 minutes every day just washing my hair. And this information doesn't include all water use such as showers, watering lawns, watering golf courses, etc., and doesn't include all of the other industrialized countries.)


For more information or to find out how you can take action against such inequities, visit any of the following websites:

Global concerns: Oxfam, CARE, CARE Corps, Kiva, ONE, Workers of the World, MercyCorps, Sweatshop Watch, UNIFEM, Women Thrive Worldwide

National concerns: Unite Here!, Union for Radical Political Economics, Citizens for Tax Justice, LaborNet, National Urban League, National Organization for Women, Sweatshop Watch

*Sources (with links where applicable) : (1) "Income, Earnings, and Poverty Data From the 2006 American Community Survey" US CENSUS BUREAU, pages 2-20 (2) Faulkner, L. "Race, Gender, and Poverty" Sacramento State Univ. Sociology Dept. (3) Kroll, L. "World's Billionaires" March 5, 2008 (4) Sawhill, I. "Poverty in the United states," The Library of Economics and Liberty (5) Bob Wise "An Hour on Education with Bob Wise and Wendy Kopp" Charlie Rose Show: PBS July1, 2008 (6) Wikipedia "List of Countries by Life Expectancy" (by CIA World Factbook) (7) Swivel... (8) Oxfam America Other sources: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development "World Economy: Frequently Asked Statistics: Earnings" ~Economic Statistics Briefing Room, The White House


sam of the ten thousand things said...

Terrible - but very important stats to consider. We have to keep our eyes open. Thanks for posting this, Sara.

Sara Kearns said...

hey sam, 'so good to hear from you.

yeah, most of these things aren't surprising, but nonetheless absolutely startling.

& overwhelming -- the sense of 'where does one start?' yikes.

thanks for commenting sam.

Anonymous said...

This is what NeoConservatism is fundamentally predicated on. We NEED a never-ending underclass or the system doesn't function. Sad, but truth.