teaching social inequality / income

J. Barkley Rosser, Jr. rosserjb at jmu.edu
Mon Mar 8 15:10:18 PST 1999

More overquota, but...


I have not seen the Nation article or Doug's new lbo. But the Smeeding Challenge article does NOT claim that the "Soviet Union" is more unequal than the US. It is Russia that is according to him, the Luxemburg people, and a whole bunch of other sources including GOSKOMSTAT in Russia itself. Some of the other former Soviet republics have maintained considerably high levels of equality, most notably Belarus.

For those not there, a thread on this stuff is now sewing on pen-l. The incredibly divergent performance of the various transition economies with respect to income distribution is one of the most striking phenomena going on right now, with a place like Slovakia having been one of the most equal on earth and with hardly any change in income distribution at all. There is a lot going on here. Barkley Rosser -----Original Message----- From: Doug Henwood <dhenwood at panix.com> To: lbo-talk at lists.panix.com <lbo-talk at lists.panix.com> Cc: HUTCHR at gbms01.uwgb.edu <HUTCHR at gbms01.uwgb.edu> Date: Monday, March 08, 1999 5:25 PM Subject: Re: teaching social inequality / income

>digloria at mindspring.com wrote:
>>Thought I would direct everyone to an article given to me by our
>>economist from the September-October 1996 issue of Challenge magazine
>>by Timothy Smeeding on America's Income Inequality: Where do we stand
>>which shows that of twenty five industrial nations, the US has the most
>>unequal distribution of any country except the Soviet Union. It was kind
>>of a show-stopper in our social problems class this morning.
>In the issue of The Nation that goes to press this Wednesday, there will
>the first installment of a page of quarterly social indicators I'll be
>doing. The topic of the premiere is inequality and poverty, and there's a
>chart of income classes (low, middle, and high income, defined relative to
>the national median) based on the work of Smeeding & Co. at the Luxembourg
>Income Study. For those of you who don't read The Nation, a similar chart
>(less snazzy graphically, since it'll be done by me and not a real graphic
>artist) will be in LBO #89.
>>Can someone direct me to more recent information concerning lifetime
>>wealth and the estate tax data? I have an older write up of this (average
>>income was $27,000 so it probably is a decade old). This is the data from
>>the estate taxes filed with IRS which show lifetime wealth; 90 percent of
>>all Americans have net wealth of only some $30,000 and half of this group
>>(45 percent) have lifetime wealth of less than $3000 at the time of this
>>earlier information. Anyone seen more recent data?
>Estate tax data is essentially useless, since, as the saying goes, it's a
>voluntary tax. Rich people with good lawyers are able to dodge it very
>effectively, so some of those $30,000 estates may actually be cleverly
>designed $3 million estates.

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