This Site Tells How Much You're Underpaid

Payscale photo illustration of workers from various professions in front of stack of moneybagsInequality makes a lot of people mad, but it's hard to know where to direct that anger. It's so complicated. Is it because of technology? Outsourcing? The decline of unions? A broken-down educational system? The rise of women? The decline of men? Immigrants? Illuminati? And how do you, as a single human being, fight a complex array of interrelated, systemic abstractions?

To solve this, a handful of economists, programmers and designers labored away for a year and half. The result is an interactive website, launched Monday by the Economic Policy Institute, called Inequality.is. Its goal: to teach people about inequality in America, and to make them so mad they might do something about it.

"A lot of people have been thinking about inequality, and what it means for them," explains Elise Gould, one of the economists at the liberal think tank who worked on the site, with help from the information visualization firm Periscopic, and a grant from the Ford Foundation. "We wanted to show what we know inequality means for people on a personal level."

More: Gaping Inequality: CEO Earns 1,795 Times The Average Worker

First, the site asks you how you'd like money in America to be distributed, and then guess how it actually is. (In a 2011 study in which respondents were asked to pick unlabeled pie charts representing different wealth distributions, the vast majority of people said that they wanted to live in a country with a wealth distribution like Sweden's.)

Then the site has you plug in some details about yourself, to show you how you fit on the American income spectrum. As a white female between the ages of 25 and 34, with a bachelor's degree, I'm told that my average salary is $44,985 a year. If I were male, I'd be making over $10,000 more, if I were black I'd be making $3,500 less, and if my wages had risen at the pace of worker productivity over the past few decades, my salary would be $24,000 higher.



OK, I'm a little mad.

Then the site goes some into context. Why and how did this happen? Outsized salaries in the financial sector, the shrinking minimum wage, and an increasingly less progressive tax system, to name a few, illustrated at Inequality.is by some pretty graphics -- and with some handy links if you're spurred to action.

Gould says that she really hopes the site does a good job of myth-busting, particularly when it comes to the idea of the American Dream. "A lot of people think inequality isn't that big of a deal, because we have equality of opportunity in this country. So it doesn't matter; everyone has an equal shot of being part of the 1 Percent," she explains. "That's just simply not true."

(Or as John Steinbeck once said, in America "the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.") As the graph below shows, the more unequal a country, the less chance you actually have of improving your lot:



Play around on Inequality.is yourself. Never has something so infuriating been so pretty! Except for maybe Gwyneth Paltrow, Apple Maps, and Stargazer Lilies (a species of flower that my colleague tells me smells unpleasantly like Novocain).

Why do the mega-rich work at all? See the slideshow below:

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