Current Events and the Psychology of Politics

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Income of Top 1 Percent Far Outgrew Others


CBO: Incomes for top 1 percent grew 275 percent (NBC Nightly News, Oct. 26, 2011) — Incomes grew by 275 percent from the years 1979 to 2007 for the country’s top one percent, data released by the Congressional Budget Office shows. But for the middle class, incomes grew by just under 40 percent over the same period. (00:26)

Reuters and
October 26, 2011

WASHINGTON — Incomes for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans nearly tripled from 1979 to 2007, far outpacing income growth for all other groups, said a new report that underscored sharply increased U.S. income disparity. …

The U.S. recession that began in 2007 took a steep toll across the country, with only a few places spared from a rise in jobless rates and a decline in incomes. Nearly two years after the recession officially ended in 2009, the U.S. unemployment rate remains above 9 percent, and the poverty rate tops 15 percent.

Income levels have taken a dip for families nationwide. For example, median household income dipped to $49,445 in 2010 — the lowest since 1996, census figures showed.

Anger over the widening gap between rich and poor has stirred protesters who identify themselves as “The 99 Percent” who are occupying a park near New York’s Wall Street and other locations across the country. They say they want to “end the greed and corruption of the wealthiest 1 percent of America,” according to the website

Income levels for the top 1 percent far outgrew others.

“For the 1 percent of the population with the highest income, average real after-tax household income grew by 275 percent between 1979 and 2007,” said the report from the Congressional Budget Office, a nonpartisan budget and tax analysis arm of Congress. …

The next-highest 19 percent of earners saw their income grow by 65 percent over the same period. Income grew by just under 40 percent for the 60 percent of the population in the middle, while the 20 percent at the bottom of the scale saw income growth of only about 18 percent, the report said.

The CBO’s conclusions will likely figure in the debate over whether tax increases on the rich should play a role in cutting budget deficits and reducing the U.S. national debt. …

In a paper released on Wednesday, the Economic Policy Institute, a think-tank, found that the ratio of the wealth held by the richest 1 percent of U.S. households to that held by the median household was 225-to-1 in 2009. …

Full story



Middle-Class Areas Shrink as Income Gap Grows, New Report Finds

The Germantown area of Philadelphia was formerly considered solidly middle class but is now mostly low income. “Everything started going down in the dumps,” a longtime resident said. (Photo credit: Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times)


November 16, 2011

WASHINGTON — The portion of American families living in middle-income neighborhoods has declined significantly since 1970, according to a new study, as rising income inequality left a growing share of families in neighborhoods that are mostly low-income or mostly affluent.

The study, conducted by Stanford University and scheduled for release on Wednesday by the Russell Sage Foundation and Brown University, uses census data to examine family income at the neighborhood level in the country’s 117 biggest metropolitan areas.

The findings show a changed map of prosperity in the United States over the past four decades, with larger patches of affluence and poverty and a shrinking middle.

In 2007, the last year captured by the data, 44 percent of families lived in neighborhoods the study defined as middle-income, down from 65 percent of families in 1970. …

Much of the shift is the result of changing income structure in the United States. Part of the country’s middle class has slipped to the lower rungs of the income ladder as manufacturing and other middle-class jobs have dwindled, while the wealthy receive a bigger portion of the income pie. Put simply, there are fewer people in the middle. …

About 14 percent of families lived in affluent neighborhoods in 2007, up from 7 percent in 1970, the study found. …

William Julius Wilson, a sociologist at Harvard who has seen the study, argues that “rising inequality is beginning to produce a two-tiered society in America in which the more affluent citizens live lives fundamentally different from the middle- and lower-income groups. …

Full story


Related report on this site

America’s Decline: Wealth Gap Resembles Third World (July 27, 2011)

Misheck Bunyira carries his wife, Janet in the lat...
Misheck Bunyira carries his wife Janet, in the late stages of pregnancy, to hospital by wheelbarrow in Epworth, Harare, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008. (Photo credit: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi / AP)



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Two Years Ago — October 27, 2009

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Three Years Ago — October 27, 2008

Much of Iraq’s Third-Largest City Reduced to Rubble

Three years ago today, on October 27, 2008, I reported that despite millions of dollars of U.S. expenditure in Mosul since 2003 to improve electricity, overhaul army facilities, and rehabilitate schools and other infrastructure, five years of war had reduced much of Iraq’s third-largest city to rubble.

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