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20 Facts About U.S. Inequality that Everyone Should Know
June 3, 2011 12:10 PM   Subscribe

20 Facts About U.S. Inequality that Everyone Should Know
posted by ennui.bz (49 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
You can almost date the Reagan revolution by the divergence of productivity from median income.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:11 PM on June 3, 2011 [17 favorites]


Unattractive 1996-esque layout;
doesn't work without javascript;
over-complicated jargon-y explanations;
ugly graphs.

And the stats (and graphs) are actually collected from various disparate sources, and make no real cohesive point other than, "these are all bad things, mm'kay?"
posted by orthogonality at 12:22 PM on June 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


holy tags batman!
posted by pwally at 12:25 PM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


to Orthogonality's point: yes, this was obviously not produced by web design specialists. Can you improve it, or direct the stanford authors to a source who can?
posted by Fraxas at 12:26 PM on June 3, 2011


Needs more Tufte. These appear to be some default graphs from Microsoft Excel. I tried to read them, but couldn't parse most of the jargon (i.e “upper-tail inequality").
On preview: what orthogonality said.
posted by mattbucher at 12:27 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


In general, sort of like getting up and feeling very very bad. Decide to see a doctor and ask to be made better. Hope he can do it. This post stops at the getting up and feeling bad point. What is to be done?
posted by Postroad at 12:29 PM on June 3, 2011


Those are charts, they aren't facts.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:30 PM on June 3, 2011


Those are charts, they aren't facts.


Pffffttt. Shows what you know. Charts, facts, stuff I make up - it's all proof.
posted by GuyZero at 12:32 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


"middle-aged people (i.e., ages 31-50)

I learned that I am middle-aged.
posted by hermitosis at 12:34 PM on June 3, 2011 [13 favorites]


Is this bad, or bad bad bad?
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 12:35 PM on June 3, 2011


Kind of hilarious that Stanford would be putting out this stuff. Thinkers at the Hoover Institution tend to believe that "redistribution schemes" can't solve inequality and that while "without question, destitution exists in the United States," an obsessive focus on income inequality "as a public policy dilemma provides a political justification for encouraging envy" and punishes the haves along with the have-nots.
posted by blucevalo at 12:36 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those are charts, they aren't facts.

Well, since charts are made by data, and data is a sort of atomic fact, the real pedantic criticism is that there are way more than 20 facts on all those charts.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:36 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Postroad Class war.
posted by sotonohito at 12:42 PM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class disappears.
Film at 11.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 12:43 PM on June 3, 2011


Kind of hilarious that Stanford would be putting out this stuff. Thinkers at the Hoover Institution tend to believe that "redistribution schemes" can't solve inequality and that while "without question, destitution exists in the United States," an obsessive focus on income inequality "as a public policy dilemma provides a political justification for encouraging envy" and punishes the haves along with the have-nots.
posted by blucevalo at 3:36 PM on June 3 [+] [!]


Kind of amazing that you use the Hoover Institute to represent Stanford.
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:48 PM on June 3, 2011


I got a far as the homelessness one, saw that apparently 50% of males in the U.S. male population are homeless, and decided that this wasn't perhaps the place to be pulling my statistics about poverty from.
posted by straw at 12:59 PM on June 3, 2011


I got a far as the homelessness one, saw that apparently 50% of males in the U.S. male population are homeless

Eh, wot? That chart says that something like 49% of the US population is male while 51% is female. And that around 2/3 of the homeless population is male while 1/3 is female. I don't see anything obviously incorrect or even particularly surprising about these statistics.
posted by Justinian at 1:03 PM on June 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


I got a far as the homelessness one, saw that apparently 50% of males in the U.S. male population are homeless,

Yeah, it doesn't actually say that.

/goes back to poking around the charts
posted by rtha at 1:06 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's one for those fond of arguing about how unionization is so bad for workers...
posted by scody at 1:25 PM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Reads like one of those parody powerpoint version of the gettysburg address, except with Excel's chart maker.

Mother Jones made the same points in eleven way better charts with way more impact.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:27 PM on June 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


No, that homeless graph is just plain terrible. It took me a few minutes to understand it - at first I read it just as straw did.

Or, to make a wisecrack about inequality itself: Is this something I'd need to own a degree to understand? a: yes
posted by special agent conrad uno at 1:29 PM on June 3, 2011


TIL that some people don't understand what charts are or how to read them.
posted by zylocomotion at 1:34 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, I did figure it out, my point was, as others have mentioned: The information design here sucks. The labeling sucks. If I want to teach myself about income inequality, I'd do far better going to the original sources and making the graphs myself.

This would be better if it added value.
posted by straw at 1:37 PM on June 3, 2011


I'm not entirely sure how to read the Job Losses chart, but the fact that it looks like a cross-section of a shoreline leading to the deep dark depths of the sea doesn't seem to bode well.
posted by quin at 1:49 PM on June 3, 2011


How many FPPs do we need about the gender pay gap canard? This graph is presumably giving the raw averages, with no controls for any other variables that correlate with gender, like experience or number of hours worked. Those statistics say nothing about whether men earn more than women all other things being equal. You can't just assume all other things are equal. In fact, we know they're not. Everyone who's interested in the truth should read the chapter on gender in Thomas Sowell's Economic Facts and Fallacies. (Note that, as Sowell explains, even studies that do control for some factors haven't controlled for all relevant factors — factors other than sexism — that could account for the gap.)

"In truth, I'm the cause of the wage gap -- I and hundreds of thousands of women like me."

"For Young Earners in Big City, a Gap in Women’s Favor"

"A Salary Gap Between Men and Women? Oh, Please."

"Mad About the Gender Gap? Blame Nature"
posted by John Cohen at 1:56 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


TIL that zyclomotion sometimes makes dick comments
posted by special agent conrad uno at 2:01 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


How many FPPs do we need about the gender pay gap canard?

Is that what this is about? I thought it was about (badly designed) charts about inequality in the U.S. Because there are a lot of charts in the link. When you call out one chart among many and rail against that one issue, and it's not the first time you've made your objections to measuring the income gap known, it starts to look just a little weird and axe-grindt.
posted by rtha at 2:01 PM on June 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


I've made the point many times because, as I said, there have been many FPPs making the same fallacious claims about the gender gap. As long as people keep making the same statistically illiterate point, I'll keep calling it out. Just saying that I've said the same thing multiple times has no bearing on whether it's true.
posted by John Cohen at 2:04 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also wasn't aware that there's a rule that you're not allowed to make a comment focusing on one out of a list of many things in a Metafilter thread. I've never heard of that rule before. Are you suggesting I'm somehow taking it out of context? I don't see how.
posted by John Cohen at 2:05 PM on June 3, 2011


I don't think there's a rule. But dude, it's weird when you say How many FPPs do we need about the gender pay gap canard? when it's not what the fpp is about. I think it's fair to call out a chart you see as inaccurate/unclear etc., as other people have done here. Other people have not claimed that the entire fpp is showcasing inaccurate stats on homelessness.
posted by rtha at 2:11 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


How many FPPs do we need about the "bad jobs" canard?
Hmm? Answer me!

If you DARE!
posted by Floydd at 2:16 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, again, I'm allowed to critique one part of the link, especially when this is a one-link FPP. True, you're right that this isn't literally just a link about the gender pay gap canard, in contrast with the many FPPs in the past that are entirely devoted to spreading that fallacy (which should be deleted). So I could have been more precise in my wording.

To speak to your comment that I have an axe to grind and that this "look[s] just a little weird." Whether it looks "weird" to you is a matter of your subjective opinion that I can't really criticize. (I find it interesting that that's your reaction.) But you're right: I do have an axe to grind. Why? Because it's a really important issue. And I think the fact that so many people (including the president), for so many years, have been making the same claim that's so clearly not true, says something profound about how distorted our discussions of gender and economics are. People keep saying the same thing over and over again as if the repetition made it true. Many people just aren't willing to research the truth — or, if they do research it, they're not willing to publicly point out any error in a claim of sexism. I believe very strongly that we should reach conclusions about economics based on thinking rationally about the actual evidence, not based on a desire to present ourselves as being opposed to the oppression of women.

Of course where there is discrimination against women (or men), I find this abhorrent and think it should be stopped, through legal means if possible. But the idea that's out there that a woman makes only 80 cents for every dollar she'd make if only she were a man? That doesn't even help women. You don't help women by propagating false information.

For those who have an interest in the gender gap, there's no excuse for not taking a hard look at the actual facts by reading sources like Thomas Sowell's Economic Facts and Fallacies. I assure you, if you haven't read that chapter and you buy the claim that women make 80 cents "on the dollar" to men, that chapter will change your outlook on this.
posted by John Cohen at 2:20 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


1 Fact about Semantics that every U.S.ian should know; You ≠ Everyone
posted by protorp at 3:06 PM on June 3, 2011


How many times does John Cohen have to insist that people who believe that discrimination contributes to the gender pay gap are statistically illiterate? Seriously, dude, we get your point. We don't agree with it, because you're wrong and obviously axe-grindy, but we get it.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:31 PM on June 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


This graph is presumably giving the raw averages, with no controls for any other variables that correlate with gender, like experience or number of hours worked. ... I believe very strongly that we should reach conclusions about economics based on thinking rationally about the actual evidence

As it happens, you are correct that the data was not well-controlled. A little time reading the source link for the chart shows as much. I just wanted to point out the hypocrisy there: instead of reaching a conclusion based on actual evidence, you presumed that the chart must use bad data because you disagreed with the results it shows.
posted by jedicus at 3:47 PM on June 3, 2011


stupidsexyFlanders: Mother Jones made the same points in eleven way better charts with way more impact.

I guess it depends on whom you're trying to reach. I skew toward comfort with numbers and suspicion of slick design. I saw those MJ charts a while back and found them intensely frustrating, because they try so hard to draw attention to the most outrageous facts, sometimes at the expense of showing the whole picture. For example, the first graph under "Winners Take All" shows a comparison of household incomes for the top 1% and the five quintiles, with dollars on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal. Only the top two stripes are distinguishable. That fact in itself makes a great point, but it's pretty much all you can get out of that graph; MJ acknowledges as much by spacing the tickmarks on the income axis at intervals of $500,000. Some of the other charts, like the one about members of Congress, are also message-rich but information-poor.

I didn't get all of the Stanford charts (what's Theil's H again?), but this one (noted in the first comment) absolutely blew me away. Holy crap! Workers took home more than four-fifths of GDP not that long ago, and now they get less than half! That simple information shocks me more than any of MJ's charts, and I find it all the more effective for being presented so plainly.
posted by aws17576 at 4:12 PM on June 3, 2011


(Of course, I would demonstrate my comfort with numbers by misstating the contents of the chart. Oops. What it says is that the median wage is now half of the average contribution to GDP... which is still pretty shocking, but not the same thing.)
posted by aws17576 at 4:17 PM on June 3, 2011


John Cohen:I assure you, if you haven't read that chapter and you buy the claim that women make 80 cents "on the dollar" to men, that chapter will change your outlook on this.

And I assure you that within a year after I changed gender my income plummeted by 60% and for two decades after that I noticed that men in each and every large corp that I was employed at (Boeing, Intel, etc) were invariable making more then the women were in equivalent positions. I had been told to my face more then once that so-and-so has "a family to feed" and thus needs to earn more.

And any "studies" out there that say that we make less because we are willing to accept less are written by complete Dicks.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 4:41 PM on June 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


Here's one for those fond of arguing about how unionization is so bad for workers...

I've never heard an argument that unionization is bad for workers. I'm more familiar with arguments that unionization is bad for the unemployed and for consumers.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:25 PM on June 3, 2011


what's Theil's H again?

I wondered, too. Apparently something to do with the Theil Index, although I can't find a specific reference to Theil's H, and my Google fu is weak. Any sociologically minded statisticians want to clarify?
posted by slow graffiti at 5:55 PM on June 3, 2011


Apparently something to do with the Theil Index

I'm not really a statistician or a sociologist, but a bit of digging suggests that Theil's H measures of the extent to which entropy (in effect, diversity) of incomes within-districts is lower than the city-wide entropy, weighted by the relative sizes of the various districts (pdf here). If I've understood it right, H can be written like this

H = \sum_d p_d (1 - (E_d / E))

where E_d is the entropy in district d, E is the city-wide entropy, and p_d is the proportion of the population that lives in district d. So the "E_d/E" term expresses the entropy (income diversity) of district d relative to the diversity of the city as a whole, the "p_d" term weights each district by it's size, and the "1-" part just inverts everything so that low H corresponds to high within-district diversity, whereas high H corresponds to low within-district diversity. Specifically, H=0 means that all districts are exactly as diverse as the city as a whole (perfectly even mixing), whereas H=1 means that every district has zero entropy (total segregation).

Of course, I've never used H myself, so I could be totally wrong about this...
posted by mixing at 6:57 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Someone will probably steal these charts and turn them into a another fucking infographic, but actually having context about the data sources is valuable.

For instance - the stuff about "Bad Jobs" and how many people don't have pensions - that data is 11 years old. It has only gotten worse since then.

You can see how the employee benefits landscape has changed here - it's one big race to the bottom. The only meaningful improvement for workers benefits came from the passage of the Family Medical Leave Act.
posted by milkrate at 7:23 PM on June 3, 2011


Just once I'd love to see a graph the links "Grew up with two married parents" to income/education/etc. I'm willing to be that the top levels have 90% plus two parent households with the bottom tier at 10%.

This trend has been going on for 40+ years and everyone seems to ignore it. I know this isn't the only solution but why is it such bad form to not speak of it on the Left?
posted by JohntheContrarian at 8:17 PM on June 3, 2011


Jo Blosses is going to be very upset when they see their name as a tag for this gallery of excel charts.
posted by oxford blue at 9:40 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously, these charts could be better organized and the explanations could, like, explain stuff. I see the point of most of these, but if the idea is to communicate with people who may or may not balk at words like quintile (why does this one use quartile and quintile in the same explanation?), it makes sense to write to the non-specialist in the crowd. Think Time Magazine.

Seconding the need for Tufte.
posted by sneebler at 9:56 PM on June 3, 2011


I've never heard an argument that unionization is bad for workers.

Sure, that's one of the cornerstones of the right-wing argument against it when they're appealing to a working-class audience (well, when they're not busy setting up one part of the working class against the other by calling union workers lazy, etc.) -- that being in a union will actually deprive you of your rights, will make you poorer because of dues, etc.
posted by scody at 10:19 PM on June 3, 2011


"Axe grindy" is a sad call for shutting someone up. It's a disrespectful one-size-fits-all ad hominem that describes anyone from Michelle Bachman to Ghandi and I physically frown when reading it. I wish folks would go back to using "try-hard" as their silly pejorative. At least there's no mental scraping noises evoked by that one.
posted by Winnemac at 12:23 PM on June 4, 2011


And I assure you that within a year after I changed gender my income plummeted by 60% and for two decades after that I noticed that men in each and every large corp that I was employed at (Boeing, Intel, etc) were invariable making more then the women were in equivalent positions. I had been told to my face more then once that so-and-so has "a family to feed" and thus needs to earn more.

And I can refute your anecdote with one of mine. In my field (civil engineering) most of the women I have worked with either made the same or more than me (a white male). Because they either had more experience or were willing to put in more hours. Admittidly it is a field largely dominated by men, but I can't think of anywhere I worked that would tolerate that kind of biased bullshit. The worker either gets shit done or doesn't and gets paid accordingly. John Cohen is right, it is a canard that fits a certain narrative of how some people want to look at the world. And 50 years ago or more it might have been true (the data seems to point to that it was) but it sure isn't now, not in this country, not in a systemic way. I am sure that there are some assholes still out there whining about the proper place for women is in the kitchen but that isn't even my generations fight, it was our parent's fight.

as I am writing this i realize your comment might have been satire, but maybe not and either way my refutation still stands.
posted by bartonlong at 1:33 PM on June 4, 2011


Fifty years ago? Try Goodyear Tire, 1997.
posted by rtha at 7:15 AM on June 5, 2011


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