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Changing Inequalities and Societal Impacts in Rich CountriesThirty Countries' Experiences$
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Brian Nolan, Wiemer Salverda, Daniele Checchi, Ive Marx, Abigail McKnight, István György Tóth, and Herman G. van de Werfhorst

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199687428

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199687428.001.0001

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The United States

The United States

High and Rapidly-Rising Inequality

(p.695) Chapter 29 The United States
Changing Inequalities and Societal Impacts in Rich Countries

Lane Kenworthy

Timothy Smeeding

Oxford University Press

The level of American inequality already was high in the 1970s, and it has increased rapidly and continuously. The causes are multiple: weak unions, stagnant educational attainment, a surge in globalization, an increase in competition in domestic industries, skill-biased technological change, a shift in corporate governance towards short-run profits, growing use of pay-for-performance, an increase in low-skilled immigration, a stall in the statutory minimum wage, financial deregulation, growing use of stock options to reward CEOs, the spread of winner-take-all markets in various industries, and reductions in effective tax rates for households at the top. It is difficult to discern how much impact this has had on American society, culture, and politics; trends for some outcomes have mirrored the income inequality trend, but for many other outcomes they have not. The effects of taxes and benefits on inequality are comparatively small and have not changed much over the past 30 years.

Keywords:   income inequality, unions, educational attainment, United States, tax rates, minimum wage, poverty, political participation, political influence, redistribution

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