Income inequality in the United States  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Income inequality in the United States is the extent to which income is distributed in an uneven manner among the American population. The inequality has increased significantly since the 1970s after several decades of stability, meaning the share of the nation's income received by higher income households has increased. This trend is evident with income measured both before taxes (market income) as well as after taxes and transfer payments. Income inequality has fluctuated considerably since measurements began around 1915, moving in an arc between peaks in the 1920s and 2000s, with a 30-year period of relatively lower inequality between 1950–1980.

Measured for all households, U.S. income inequality is comparable to other developed countries before taxes and transfers, but is among the highest after taxes and transfers, meaning the U.S. shifts relatively less income from higher income households to lower income households. Measured for working-age households, market income inequality is comparatively high (rather than moderate) and the level of redistribution is moderate (not low). These comparisons indicate Americans shift from reliance on market income to reliance on income transfers later in life and less than households in other developed countries do.

The U.S. ranks around the 30th percentile in income inequality globally, meaning 70% of countries have a more equal income distribution. U.S. federal tax and transfer policies are progressive and therefore reduce income inequality measured after taxes and transfers. Tax and transfer policies together reduced income inequality slightly more in 2011 than in 1979.

While there is strong evidence that it has increased since the 1970s, there is active debate in the United States regarding the appropriate measurement, causes, effects and solutions to income inequality. Measurement is particularly debated, as inequality measures vary to a significant extent if, for example, different datasets are used or in-kind compensation is considered, such as employer-paid healthcare premiums, which have increased dramatically over the same time period.

The two major political parties have different approaches to the issue, with Democrats historically emphasizing that economic growth should result in shared prosperity (i.e., a pro-labor argument advocating income redistribution), while Republicans tend to avoid government intervention in income and wealth generation (i.e., a pro-capital argument against redistribution).

According to some speculative research, US income inequality might be higher than it was during the Roman Empire,

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Income inequality in the United States" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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