Saturday, June 9, 2012

Stanford Project on Income and Inequality

A group of sociologists at Stanford and Harvard (and on from U. Mich) recently finished an impressive and sizable project on inequality in the US called Inequality in the United States: Understanding Inequality with Data (click here for the entire, 89 page report, complete with multiple tables and charts).  They don't just focus on income inequality, but also include debt, education, employment, family, gender, health, immigration, mobility, politics, poverty, race, violent crime and wealth, and they offer many specific analyses within each category (e.g., changes in union membership, or changes in US industry as part of the employment section).  Many of the tables show changes over time so you can get a sense of today's rates compared to those of years before.  Further, you can see at what point in time significant changes in trajectories occurred (click here to see a select number of slides individually). This is really an impressive assembly of data put together into an easily understandable format.  This would be perfect for journalists, researchers, students, and other bloggers who write about these topics.  Some of the data is even broken down by state so you can compare across states (e.g., violent crime) and others allow you to see how the US compares with other countries.  More about the project and other material can be found on the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality website. Here you can test you poverty and inequality IQ and learn the 20 facts about poverty and inequality that everyone should know.

To address these issues through policy, the Center posted a short chapter from a popular book called "Inequality by Design" which uses sociological data to critique the popular Bell Curve viewpoint and explain inequality as a consequence of they way our social institutes are designed and function.  They also offer a short (5-page) report on aspiring for income equality in a 2007 issue of Contexts, which is a publication of the American Sociological Association.

Below I posted their May, 2012 press release (after the break).

Sharon Jank, Stanford University (
Lindsay Owens, Stanford University (
Between 2009 and 2011 media mentions of the phrase income inequalityincreased by over 250%. This rising interest in income inequality left many journalists, educators, and Americans scrambling for high-quality and informative facts about inequality. Unfortunately, existing research on inequality is not always easy to find, is quite technical, and often focuses narrowly on income inequality, paying less attention to the many other types of social and economic inequality in our society.
To remedy this problem, social scientists from different universities have compiled a broad set of facts and figures on inequality of all types; presented them in a clear format without academic jargon; and hosted them at one central
The educational materials include fourteen modules, each examining a different face of inequality. They are debt, education, employment, family, gender, health, immigration, income, mobility, politics, poverty, race and ethnicity, violent crime,and wealth.
The modules are authored by a team of social science doctoral students from around the country who spend their professional lives trying to understand the causes and consequences of inequality. As young scholars, they are in the trenches of the scholarly inequality debates. Each scholar has authored the module that most closely matches his or her area of expertise.
Each author's module contains between 4 and 6 key charts and figures, each depicting a striking trend or result in inequality in that domain. No module covers the entirety of social science research on a given topic. Instead, the compendium purposely forgoes depth for breadth, providing a wide-ranging array of information about inequality. The final figures are culled from hundreds of books, articles, datasets, policy briefs, and working papers.
The authors have also limited textual explanations to the bare minimum, providing just enough text to explain the figure, largely letting each figure speak for itself.
The resulting effort, a comprehensive set of some of the most important trends in American inequality, will be distributed to educators, journalists, community leaders, policymakers, students, and workers. Please post a link to this new resource on your website, share it with your colleagues, distribute it among your networks, and use it in any other ways that may be useful to your work.

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