Since the 2008 crash, increased emphasis has been placed on the widening wage gap between the wealthiest individuals and the rest of the country.
The 2016 Election cycle has brought up many questions about wealth and privilege. During his campaign, current President Donald Trump was both criticized for his affluence and praised for his financial success. This conversation around wealth and economic justice causes us to wonder; what is the state of inequality in our country?
The reality is that America is recognized as having one of the largest wealth gaps in the world. Though the great recession caused income to decline at each level, economic growth since 2009 has benefited our country’s top earners the most. The process of the rich getting richer and the poor becoming poorer is a long term trend.
In 2013, the highest earning percent of Americans possessed more than 20% of the county’s wealth.
The income of the highest earning 1% doubled from 1979 to 2013. In North Carolina in 2013, the ratio of the average top 1% income to the 99% income was 17.7 with the most successful individuals earning approximately $730,864 per year, and the 99% averaging out with incomes of $42,162 each year.
As the wealth of the highest 1% becomes increasingly stable, upward mobility decreases for the rest of the population. In the documentary Inequality for All, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich describes the occupations and lifestyles of the richest Americans, saying that many of those in the top 1% work in the financial sector, are CEOs, or are celebrities and athletes. However, their wealth does not trickle down and benefit the economy. Wages are stagnating and the cost of housing, higher education, and healthcare is increasing. Individuals in many communities work multiple jobs and still struggle to reach a state of financial security. The income gap should be lessened because wealth dispersed as unevenly as it is in America only benefits the rich.