Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Rich Get Richer

Yesterday I mentioned growing income inequality—in the aggregate. Today another look at that subject. Herewith a graphic on the changing distribution of income by each fifth of the U.S. population of households. These data show shares of income and how they’ve changed from a base of 1990 at decade intervals. The data come from this Census facility (link); select Table H-2.

Notable here is that share of income by the four lower quintiles has dropped—and that the top quintile has gained share consistently. The rich are getting richer, the poor poorer. In 2010, the four lower quintiles, thus 80 percent of households, earned less than the top quintile.

Evidently this erosion of economic power has not translated into any kind of political reaction as yet. The two top quintiles, representing 40 percent of the voters, and having average income of $79,000 (fourth) and $170,000 (fifth) are numerous and influential enough to produce an electorate roughly equally divided between the parties. How long will this last? Or is it that people do not vote based on their economic interests? If they did, an administration much more concerned with equitable income distribution would be a shoe-in.

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