Truths, Sad Truths and Damn Statistics

9 Jun


20 Facts About Inequality That Everyone Should Know

1. Wage Inequality

Over the last 30 years, wage inequality in the United States has increased substantially, with the overall level of inequality now approaching the extreme level that prevailed prior to the Great Depression. This general characterization of the inequality trend oversimplifies, though, the actual pattern of change: The chart below shows that the trend at the top of the income distribution (the “upper tail”) is not exactly the same as the trend at the bottom of the distribution (the “lower tail”). “Lower-tail” inequality is measured here by taking the ratio of wages at the middle of the income distribution (i.e., the 50th percentile) to those near the bottom of the distribution (i.e., the 10th percentile); “upper-tail” inequality is measured by taking the ratio of wages near the top of the distribution (i.e., the 90th percentile) to those at the middle of the distribution (i.e., the 50th percentile of workers). We find that lower-tail inequality rose sharply in the 1980s and contracted somewhat thereafter, while upper-tail inequality has increased steadily since 1980.

Men’s wage inequality

Fact 1 image is missing

Source: Economic Policy Institute. 2011. “Upper Tail” inequality growing steadily: Men’s wage inequality, 1973-2009. Washington, D.C.: Economic Policy Institute. May 11, 2011. <>.

8. Racial Discrimination

Racial discrimination continues to be in the labor market. An experiment carried out in Chicago and Boston during 2001 and 2002 shows that resumes with “white-sounding” names, whether male or female, were much more likely to result in call backs for interviews than were those with “black-sounding” names (even though the resumes were otherwise identical).

Interview call-back rate for women with “white” names and “black” names

Fact 8 image is missing

15. Wealth Inequality

The ownership of wealth among households in the U.S. became somewhat more concentrated since the 1980s. The top 10% of households controlled 68.2 percent of the total wealth in 1983 and 73.1% of the total wealth in 2007.

Concentration of wealth in the U.S. between 1983 and 2007

Fact 15 image is missing

19. Does immigration to the U.S. bring highly-skilled workers into the labor force or unskilled workers? The answer is both! The education distribution below indicates that immigrants are concentrated in both tails of the skill distribution.

Characteristics of immigrant education enrollment in 2000

Fact 19 image is missing

Source: David Card. 2009. Immigration and Inequality. Center for research and analysis of immigration. See

The above were just a few of my (is favorite the right word?) statistics from this article.

Thanks to Jake for the tip!


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