What the 99% Are About One More Time: The Social Impact of Inequality

A blog post by Stephen Herzenberg, originally published at Third and State.

This past week, in a response to U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, this blog addressed the gap between the myth of equal opportunity in America and the reality of increasing immobility. New York Times columnist Charles Blow was on a similar theme this past weekend in a column called “America’s Exploding Pipe Dream."

Blow's column summarizes the results of a new study that ranks the 31 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries on eight indicators of social well-being. As well as the affluent European countries, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, the OECD includes a dozen countries that have average income and wealth levels far below the U.S., sometimes a small fraction of U.S. levels: Chile, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, and Turkey.

Yet the U.S. overall Social Justice ranking is 27th.

The U.S. ranking on the eight individual measures is listed below:

  • Overall Poverty Prevention Rating: 29
  • Overall Poverty Rate: 29
  • Child Poverty Rate: 28
  • Senior Citizen Poverty Rate: 25
  • Income Inequality (low ranking means high inequality): 28
  • Pre-primary education (share of GDP invested in public pre-primary education): 22
  • Health rating: 23
  • Inter-generational justice rating (family, pension, environmental, and other policies that impact well-being of future generations): 20

This is completely unnecessary. If the United States had a mind to, it could be ranking in the top five within five years. And our economy could be stronger as a result if we were smart about it. So let’s get going.

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