June, 2015

Inequality, Mobility, and Being Poor in America

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Find article at Cambridge Journals.

Among the most hotly debated issues in recent years are those surrounding the distribution of income in the United States. Has income distribution become more unequal? If so, does that increased inequality lead to problems? If not, why do people think it has become more unequal? How are changes in inequality related to the question of income mobility, or how easy or difficult it is for households to move up (and down) the income quintiles? Finally one question not as often asked in this discussion: What has been the change in the real standard of living of poor Americans? This question is distinct from those around inequality, in that increases or decreases in inequality as measured by the share of income earned by different quintiles have no necessary relationship to increases or decreases in the absolute standard of living of the poor. All of these questions are, or should be, in play in discussions of inequality.