The Discourse on Inequality in the US and the American Dream

us_flag.jpgThis week's issue of the Economist (hat tip to New Economist and Mark Thoma) provides us with an important overview and account of the discourse of inequality in the US. The magazine both has a leader and a special report (walled for non-subscribers). I have reported on this before invoking the correlation between productivity growth and income inequality (also here) drawingm, among other things, upon two research papers from Ian Dewbecker and Robert Gordon and Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez.

(from the leader)

'Only one in four Americans believes the economy is in good shape. While firms' profits have soared, wages for the typical worker have barely budged. The middle class—admittedly a vague term in America—feels squeezed. A college degree is no longer a passport to ever-higher pay. Now politicians are playing on these fears. From the left, populists complain about Mr Bush's plutocratic friends exporting jobs abroad; from the right, nativists howl about immigrants wrecking the system.'

Apart from the articles, the Economist also presents important references which give a thorough overview of the discourse of US inequality. It is a good list of research papers, including the ones I have mentioned above, which would be wise to bookmark for later reference. Below is The Economist's list including some of my additions ...

The Polarisation of the U.S. Labour Market”, by David H. Autor, Lawrence F. Katz and Melissa S. Kearney. NBER Working Paper No 11986. January 2006

Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Re-assessing the Revisionists”, by David Autor, Lawrence F. Katz and Melissa Kearney. NBER 11627. September 2005

The Evolution of Top Incomes: A Historical and International Perspective”, Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. NBER Working Paper 11955. January 2006

Top Wealth Shares in the United States, 1916-2000: Evidence from Estate Tax Returns”, by Wojciech Kopczuk and Emmanuel Saez. National Tax Journal. June 2004

Trends in the Transitory Variance of Earnings in the United States”, by Robert A. Moffitt and Peter Gottschalk. Economic Journal. March 2002

Understanding Mobility in America”, by Tom Hertz, American University. Centre for American Progress. April 2006

American Exceptionalism in a New Light: A Comparison of Intergenerational Earnings Mobility in the Nordic Countries, the United Kingdom and the United States”, by Markus Jantti, Knut Roed, Robin Naylor, Anders Bjorklund, Bernt Bratsberg, Oddbjorn Raaum and Tor Eriksson. IZA Discussion Paper No 1938. January 2006

Do Poor Children Become Poor Adults? Lessons from a Cross Country Comparison of Generational Earnings Mobility”, by Miles Corak. IZA Discussion Paper No 1993. March 2006

Where Did the Productivity Growth Go? Inflation Dynamics and the Distribution of Income”, by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon. NBER Working Paper 11842. December 2005

How Computerised Work and Globalisation Shape Human Skill Demands”, by Frank Levy and Richard J. Murnane. May 2006


Wolf, Martin; A new gilded age – The Financial Times, April 25,2006.

Sperling, Gene; A Disappointing Decade for Reducing Inequality –, April 12, 2006.

Ip, Greg; Snow Defends President's Handling of Economy – The Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2006.

Economist, The; Dividing the Pie – The Economist, February 2nd 2006 (print edition).