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Income Inequality In One Graph

by on January 31, 2011

It’s often argued by the left that America has a poverty problem. Poverty, they say, is up. More Americans fell into poverty this last year than in any time since the Census Bureau has been keeping track.

Let’s put aside the technical details and the legitimacy of measuring poverty the way we do and simply accept that poverty is, indeed, on the rise. That’s a bad thing, right? I think so. The goal should be to see people’s incomes increasing- not decreasing. America is the richest nation on earth. Why the hell do we have poverty?

The question is, of course, legitimate but in economics context matters. A lot. One moment you can feel smug about your moral outrage towards America’s poverty problem and along comes one graph that slaps you firmly upside the head. Like this graph:

Inequality in the world, by country and income class

This comes from the New York Times’ Economix blog. I won’t bother interpreting this graph here, so I suggest you head on over to the original post and read Katherine Rampell’s excellent summary (she says it way better than I could). You will be blown away.

But just really quick, one of the facts this graph shows is that, as a group, the poorest Americans are as rich as the richest Indians. The richest Indians.

Kind of puts American poverty in context, doesn’t it?


From → Economics

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