Issues of inequality seem poised to play a large role in the public discourse this year. President Obama is expected to use his Jan. 28 State of the Union speech to promote specific proposals aimed at inequality, such as raising the federal minimum wage. Congressional Democrats reportedly see inequality as an issue that could help them in this year’s midterm elections. And some Republicans, such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, have begun talking about creating “a new opportunity society in America” as a conservative approach to addressing persistent poverty. As the debate gears up, it’s important to understand some basic facts about how inequality is measured, the trends over time and how the U.S. compares globally. Here’s a “5 Facts” primer:
- By one measure, U.S. income inequality is the highest it’s been since 1928.
- The U.S. is more unequal than most of its developed-world peers.
- The black-white income gap in the U.S. has persisted.
- Americans are relatively unconcerned about the wide income gap between rich and poor.
- Wealth inequality is even greater than income inequality.
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