Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Born poor means staying poor: Ominous income inequality trends for U.S.

Sightline’s Eric de Place pulls together recent research illustrating three very disturbing trends in U.S. income distribution:

  • ossification – the rich are more likely to stay rich and the poor are more likely to stay poor;
  • gentrification – older households are making dramatic economic gains relative to younger households; and
  • concentration – an ever-smaller group of people are vacuuming up an ever-larger share of total income.

No mind-numbing numbers here, but yes to charts galore illustrating the point. Here’s one from a paper by the Boston Federal Reserve on family income mobility:

There’s lots more – you should head over to Sightline Daily for the whole meal – but first, let’s take a look at different comparison: income mobility/ossification in Denmark vs. U.S., from the NY Times:

As Kevin Drum aptly notes, the really big difference here is:

On the far left, you can see the only really big difference between the countries: the poorest kids in America are far more likely to stay poor than they are in Denmark and far less likely to get rich. And that’s pretty much it. … They start out worse off than Danish kids, and they end up worse off than Danish adults. There’s no single reason for this, but one of the big ones is early childhood education. Danes do a much better job on this score than we do, and if we put more money and energy into this I’ll bet it would make a big difference.

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