Tag Archives: inequality

How are the top 0.1% doing?

The EPI article Wages for the top1% skyrocketed 160% since 1979 while the share of wages for the bottom 90% shrunk by Lawrence Mishel and Jori Kandra (12/1/2020) reports:

As Figure A shows, the top 1.0% of earners are now paid 160.3% more than they were in 1979. Even more impressive is that those in the top 0.1% had more than double that wage growth, up 345.2% since 1979 (Table 1). In contrast, wages for the bottom 90% grew only 26.0% in that time.

The top 0.1% go off the chart. There are two other tables of data nd the data for the chart copied here is available.

How many people live in poverty?

It depends on what we mean by poverty.  The World Bank blog post A quarter of the world lives in societal poverty by Marta Schoch, Dean Mitchell Joliffe, & Christoph Lakner (12/2/2020):

Measures of absolute poverty, such as poverty at the US$1.90US$3.20 and the US$5.50 international poverty lines, have the advantage of remaining fixed (in constant dollars), allowing one to measure poverty against the same benchmark over time and across countries. However, when countries set their own national poverty lines, they typically increase the real value of these lines as their economies evolve.

The absolute poverty line  misses the fact that “the ability to participate in society is costlier in richer countries.”  So,

In 2018, the World Bank introduced a Societal Poverty Line (SPL),

The SPL is a hybrid line, combining the US$1.90-a-day absolute poverty line with a relative component that increases as median consumption or income in an economy rises.

The SPL is the max of US$1.90 and US$1+ 0.5*median, where median is the daily median income or consumption per capita in the household survey.

The is more information and other graphs in the article.

How do we compare the racial differences in home ownership?

To address this question we start with a recent post by Kevin Drum (10/23/2020): Are Black Homeowners Suffering from Slow Price Growth?

There’s no question that homes in majority-Black neighborhoods are undervalued compared to similar homes in majority-White neighborhoods, but do they also appreciate more slowly?

The article goes through four charts with the last one copied here.

However, if I were forced to choose one of these as the most telling, I’d take the Zillow chart since its data covers the entire nation and it provides a useful time series that fits what I know about the bubble-era lending industry—although I’d sure like to see it extended to the present. It shows that over a somewhat longish term, home appreciation has been lower in Black neighborhoods than in white neighborhoods, primarily because of a huge drop following the housing bubble. The culprit here, however, is not Black neighborhoods per se, but the mortgage industry, which oversold to Black borrowers during the bubble and drove prices far higher than even normal bubble standards. That wretched episode has been documented in considerable detail in a lot of places, but you can read a good outline here if you want to learn more.

One of the articles linked to is Devaluation of housing in black neighborhoods, Part 2: Appreciation by Joe Cortright (7/24/2019):

A key question the Brooking’s report leaves unanswered is whether the black/white housing differential is larger or smaller than it was 10 or 20 years ago.  If it was larger in the past and is smaller today, that implies that homes in majority black neighborhoods, although still undervalued relative to homes in predominantly white neighborhoods, have enjoyed greater relative appreciation. From the standpoint of wealth creation, the amount of appreciation since you bought your home is likely to matter more than whether the current price of your house is more or less than otherwise similar properties. Another way of expressing this is that homeowners in black neighborhoods had a lower purchase price (or basis) in their home, and even though it is still undervalued, it may have gained more value in percentage terms than homes in non-majority black neighborhoods.

Indeed, Dan Immergluck and his colleagues at the Georgia State University found that for those who bought homes in 2012, price appreciation for black homebuyers from 2012 through 2017 was higher than for white homebuyers.  Immergluck’s data show that in most markets, homes bought by black buyers appreciated more than homes bought by white homebuyers.

This article also references the Zillow study,  A House Divided – How Race Colors the Path to Homeownership by Skylar Olsen (1/15/2014), which includes a number of graphs related to homeownership by race. As Drum notes it would be nice if this study was updated.

What is the connection between poverty and extracurricular activities?

The Census Bureau post Even Short-Term Spells of Poverty Lower School-Aged Children’s Involvement in Extracurricular Activities by Brian Know (9/23/2020) quantifies the challenges of students  due to even temporary spells of poverty.

The percentage of children ages 6 to 11 taking lessons was significantly different between those who were in poverty some months in the year (22.5%) and those in poverty the entire year (16.2%).

Among children ages 12 to 17, involvement in lessons did not differ between children in poverty some months compared to all months in the year.

Similar to involvement in sports, taking lessons was more common in both age groups among children who did not experience any poverty compared to children who experienced poverty some months in the year.

There are links to data sources and two other graphs.

What is median household income by race and ethnicity?

The EPI article Racial disparities in income and poverty remain largely unchanged amid strong income growth in 2019 by Valerie Wilson (9/16/2020) reports the data from the Census Bureau on income and poverty in the graph copied here.

…real median household income increased 10.6% among Asian households (from $88,774 to $98,174), 8.5% among Black households (from $42,447 to $46,073), 7.1% among Hispanic households (from $52,382 to $56,113), and 5.7% among non-Hispanic white households (from $71,922 to $76,057), …

There is a second graph on poverty rates and data is included for both graphs, as well as a link to the original Census Bureau data.

Is the racial wealth gap evenly distributed by class?

The article The Racial Wealth Gap is About the Upper Classes by Matt Bruenig (6/29/2020) on the People’s Policy Project explains. First the racial wealth gap is large:

If you take the net worth of all white households and divide it by the number of white households, you get $900,600. If you do the same thing for black households, you get $140,000. The difference between these figures — $770,600 — is the best representation of the overall racial wealth gap.

The graphs here from the article show that the wealth in both groups is largely concentrated in the top 10%.

What this means is that the overall racial wealth disparity is being driven almost entirely by the disparity between the wealthiest 10 percent of white people and the wealthiest 10 percent of black people.


This means that even after you have completely closed the racial wealth gap between the bottom 90 percent of each race, 77.5 percent of the overall racial wealth gap still remains, which is to say that the disparity between the top deciles in each race drives over three-fourths of the racial wealth gap.


What this shows is that 97 percent of the overall racial wealth gap is driven by households above the median of each racial group.


What is the relationship between class, race, and police killings?

The People’s Policy Project reports on their recent research paper in the post Class and Racial Inequalities in Police Killings (6/23/2020). The full paper, Police Killings in the U.S. is by Justin Feldman, ScD. In general,

The highest-poverty areas have a police killing rate of 6.4 per million while the lowest-poverty areas have a police killing rate of 1.8 per million, a 3.5-fold difference.

The differences in killing rate have the same pattern when viewed by Black, Hispanic, and White populations. Differences by class among Hispanics is the least. Further,

He finds that class differences account for more than 100 percent of the difference between white and Latino police killing rates, meaning that, after adjusting for socioeconomic differences, Latinos have a lower police killing rate than whites. Class differences account for 28 percent of the difference between black and white police killing rates.

There are three other graphs in the post.

How has Black educational attainment changed?

The Census Bureau post Black High School Attainment Nearly on Par with National Average  by Jennifer Cheeseman Day (6/10/2020) notes:

In 1940, when the U.S. Census Bureau started asking about educational attainment, only 7% of Blacks had a high school education, compared with 24% for the nation as a whole.

In recent years, Black educational attainment has been much closer to the national average and today, 88% of Blacks or African Americans have a high school diploma, just shy of the national average, according to census data released last month from the Current Population Survey.

Related to the graph copied here:

The national average dropout rate declined from 19% in 1968 to about 6% in 2018. The Black dropout rate fell more steeply from 33% to 5%, bringing it in line with the national average.

Average enrollment for young adults increased from 26% to 41%. At the same time, the proportion of Black young adults in college more than doubled, rising from 15% to 38%.

The article contains five other graphs and links to the Census Bureau data sources.



What is the connection between crime and lead?

Kevin Drum asks a good question in his post How Many Cops Does New York City Need?  First note that violent crime has been dropping since around 1990 (see his graph copied here for examples). In particular for NYC:

The per capita number of police officers increased by about 10 percent through 2000 and then declined by about 20 percent through 2018. That’s nearly flat over the entire period. Violent crime, by contrast, plummeted 60 percent from its peak in 1990 through 2000 and then declined another 40 percent through 2018. That’s a total decrease of nearly 80 percent between 1990 and 2018.

Violent  crime has decreased even though the per capita number of cops has been nearly flat. So, why did crime decrease? There is overwhelming evidence that removing lead emissions from cars is the main driver of crime decline. I strongly encourage you to read Drum’s 2018 summary of the evidence.

So, why doesn’t anyone talk about lead and crime?

The second problem is among activists on both left and right who have their own pet theories. On the left, we tend to blame poverty, institutional racism, poor schooling, lousy housing, and so forth. On the right, the favorite targets are the breakdown of the family, too few cops, too few prisons, drugs, the decline of religion, and so forth. There is very little convincing evidence for any of this, while lead poisoning explains everything. But if lead poisoning is the answer, then everyone has to give up their pet theories about what happened between 1960 and 2010. That’s a tough ask.

We forget that there was a lot of violent crime in the 1980s. It had an impact on society in many ways. But, we are past that and removing lead from the environment is a permanent fix to the violent crime wave of the past. This should allow us to think differently about societal needs for policing.

The Drum post has two other graphics. The Statistics Projects page has the relevant lead and crime data.


How has Covid-19 impacted unemployment by race?

The chart here comes from using FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data). Since at least the 1970s Hispanic or Latino (using FRED terms) unemployment was consistently between Black or African American and White and more recently slightly closer to White unemployment. For possibly the first time since the 1970s Hispanic or Latino unemployment (18.9%) exceeded Black or African American (16.7%) in April 2020. The Feb 2020 to April 2020 increase in unemployment for the four groups in the chart are (in order from smallest to largest) Black or African American (10.9%), White (11.1%), Asian* (11.8%), Hispanic or Latino (14.5%). It would seem that by both the total increase and the magnitude of unemployment that the Hispanic or Latino population was hit hardest by Covid-19. Moving to May, while Hispanic or Latino unemployment has decreased, along with White unemployment while Black or African American is stable and Asian increasing, they still exceed the other three groups.

The link here to FRED is only for the graph of Black or African American unemployment. Use the Edit Graph button (top right) and then Add Line (middle top tab). Search for the other groups and add them to the chart. The chart will provide data starting in 1972. The graph is interactive and the data is available.

*Asian Unemployment numbers are not seasonally adjusted while the other three are – FRED didn’t have seasonally adjusted for Asians or I couldn’t find it.