Inescapable inequality?

Inequality has become a deeply rooted feature of social and economic landscapes around the world

I’ve been in South Africa and the US recently. From geography to development both countries are, of course, very different. But they do share some similarities. Take inequality, for example. This issue – which is by no means limited to their shores – has become a deeply rooted feature of their social and economic landscapes, one that proven stubbornly resistant to attempted remedies.

Inequality has many invidious consequences – too many to list here. This is because it is one of the few issues […]

Data show the “American Dream” is a fallacy and Americans still don’t realize it

Americans continue to kid themselves that if you work hard you can climb the ladder. But the perception and reality are moving farther apart.

Economists at Harvard University recently published research on actual and perceived economic mobility in the United States and four European countries. They found an American public in denial. The data show that Americans believe the chance that a person who is born into the bottom 20% of households in income in the US can reach the top 20% in adulthood is more than 50% higher than in reality.

Not all other countries suffer from such misconceptions. The […]

Time banks can forge social change

We have all heard of the adage, "time is money", but this is often understood in terms of the market economy, where all goods and services are assigned a monetary value. The time economy, on the other hand, is made up of all the goods and services of social value that measures of the market economy do not currently include, such as caregiving for children, the disabled or the elderly, volunteering and other philanthropic activities.

Defining and measuring the time economy would allow us to better value all these socially useful but unpaid activities.

One way to unlock the value in […]

To Reduce Urban Inequality, Reconsider Unions

Steel workers in Chicago strike in 1952. Cities have become simmering cauldrons of economic inequality, especially after the Great Recession . In his new book, Richard Florida writes that this condition is at the heart of what he calls the “New Urban Crisis,” and suggests fixes in the form of equitable housing, tax, infrastructure, and anti-poverty policies.

But there’s another solution, now largely overlooked, that has helped reduce gross inequality in the past: collective bargaining. In a new working paper , economists Brantly Callaway at Temple University and William J. Collins at Vanderbilt University examine the decades after the Great […]

The Aristocracy That Let Me In

Via WikiCommons . Over the past seven years, I received over $330,000 of need-based financial aid, and it gave me a one-way ticket to the new American elite.

I grew up attending public schools in Iowa and Ohio until increasing frustration with my schooling led my family and me to reply to a flier that we received alerting us to the existence of boarding schools. Up until then, I believed boarding schools only existed in England; I had never heard of “Exeter” or “Andover.” I applied to four schools and chose to attend the Middlesex School of Concord, Massachusetts, despite […]

Illinois careens into financial meltdown – and not even the lottery is safe

Illinois Lottery, June 08, 2017

Illinois is grappling with a full-fledged financial crisis and not even the lottery is safe – with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner warning the state is entering "banana republic" territory.

Facing billions in unpaid bills and pension obligations, the state is hitting a cash crunch that is rare even by Illinois standards.

A top financial official just warned 100 percent of the state’s monthly revenue will be eaten up by court-ordered payments. Rauner is calling a special session of the Democrat-led General Assembly in a bid to pass what he hopes will be the first full budget package in almost three years.And […]

IBS Policy Paper From research to policy

I S H I G H I N E Q U A L I T Y A N I S S U E I N P O L A N D ?

Michał Brzeziński

Main messageGiven its economic development level, Poland is not a country of striking economic inequality. While income inequality in Poland is high compared to wealthier EU states, Poland ranks more favourably in that respect than other countries of similar affluence or those undergoing economic transformation. Income inequality has not shown a rising trend in recent years. Its high level is mostly due to considerable wage dispersion, in […]

UBI is not the answer

Sometimes I lull myself into thinking that I know at least a little bit about a bunch of things. Then something new, at least to me, comes along and totally destroys that notion. But now I think I’ve heard just about everything. During the commencement address at Harvard, the founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, said he supports an idea called universal basic income. Wait until you read what he has in mind!

Here’s what Patrick Gillespie of CNN’s online “Money” report has to say about it, “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that […]

How much social mobility do people really want?


Here’s a question I get asked a lot: “Ok, so what’s the ideal amount of social mobility?” Scholars interested in relative income mobility often use a quintile transition matrix, showing how much ‘stickiness’ there is in the income distribution between two generations: (Note that this version draws on data from the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics, but we’ve produced matrices using data from the National Longitudinal Surveys , as well as one for educational mobility .)

Four out of ten children born at the bottom will remain there as adults—and about the same stickiness can be seen at the top. […]

BY JULIA B. ISAACS, The Brookings Institution



reedom from the constraints of aristocratic society lured many of our ancestors tocross the ocean to the New World. European visitors such as Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at the economic dynamism and social mobility of American society in the first half of the nineteenth century.1 More recently, immigrants continue to cross our boundaries in search of the promise of the American Dream. Given this history, many Americans believe that the opportunities for moving up the economic ladder are greater in the United States than they arein other countries. But is this widely held assumption of greater […]