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What the Rich Won Over the Past 35 Years and What Everyone Else Lost

Jon Wisman () and Aaron Pacitti

No 2014-08, Working Papers from American University, Department of Economics

Abstract: The explosion in inequality since 1980 has quashed hopes that mature economic development would generate more equitable economic and social conditions. Although inequality is receiving increasing attention from academics and politicians, the focus has been mostly on income and wealth. This article provides a broader analysis by expanding the focus to what this dramatically greater inequality has meant in terms of peoples' lives; their relative status, their health and longevity, their opportunities and mobility, the quality of public goods, and the distribution of political power. It presents metrics and qualitative analysis of what, when seen more fully, the rich have gained and the non-rich have lost. To better grasp the amount of wealth captured by a small elite, the article ends with a depiction of what the $29 trillion in wealth gains by the top 10 percent could purchase in terms of public goods such as infrastructure, social security, health care, education and budget deficits.

Keywords: income inequality; wealth inequality; mobility (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D63 N32 O51 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2014
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