Dimensions of Inequality in the United States

Dimensions of Inequality in the United States - C H A P T E...

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C H A P T E R 2 Dimensions of Inequality in the United States As we will see in this chapter, the United States has the greatest level of inequality of all industrial nations. In no other country, for example, is the gap in income and benefits between these agricultural laborers and professionals as high or growing as rapidly. SOURCE: Left: Tony Arruza/Corbis; right: Jim Richardson/Corbis ker80075_ch02_018-049.indd 18 ker80075_ch02_018-049.indd 18 10/4/07 2:29:25 PM 10/4/07 2:29:25 PM
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Chapter 2 Dimensions of Inequality in the United States 19 Chapter Outline Income and Wealth Inequality Inequality in Basic Necessities Health Inequalities Unequal Political Outputs Dimensions of Inequality: A Conclusion Summary A few years ago I met an American friend of mine at a train station in California. He had been living in Japan for 10 years, and except for a couple of short visits to Hawaii, had not been in the United States during those 10 years. He arrived in San Fran- cisco, spent a few days across the Bay in Oakland, and traveled by train to Los Angeles and then completely across the country to spend a few weeks gathering information in Washington, D.C. Upon arriving in California, and then more so as he traveled across the United States, he was shocked at the poverty and signs of inequality he saw every- where. “This is not the country I remember,” he told me. “It almost seems like a third world country today.” A couple of years later, while I was living in Germany, American relatives who came for a visit asked, “So where do the poor people live?” They were unaware that, such as there are, I had already shown them. These are not uncommon reactions. Indeed, in the United States we find a mix of third world and first world characteristics more than in other industrial nations. Travel- ing around this country, you find the third world and first world in separate regions, with people of first world America trying to isolate themselves from what they find in the other. The third world parts, it must be stressed, are not mostly due to recent immigra- tion: The vast majority of poor people in the United States were born of parents whose ancestors had been Americans for many generations. As noted toward the end of the previous chapter, the United States is in the process of change. Inequality has again been growing. But this is not the only reason why my friend, returning to his homeland for the first time in 10 years, was shocked: He also had been living in a country with one of the lowest levels of inequality among industrial nations at the time. Americans traveling in Western Europe have often been surprised because they may have heard that some countries such as Germany have been suffering from unem- ployment as high as 11 percent or more (compared to the 5 percent level of the United States in the last seven years; yet, with such high unemployment, they find very little poverty compared to the United States. Americans are accustomed to think that unem- ployment, especially unemployment that high, must produce a lot of poverty. No doubt,
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Dimensions of Inequality in the United States - C H A P T E...

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