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."
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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