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Snapshot Inequality: Why We've Asked The Wrong Question

Updated: Aug 17, 2021


"I grew up here...that was me."


To prevent boredom, I promise to use as little textbook language as possible, after all, economics is far more artistic in expression than what may meet the eye. With that being said, I am obligated to at the very least convey a suitable definition of "income inequality".

In short, income inequality is the disparity in wealth distributed amongst any given category such as — but not limited to: population, social classes, race, and countries. Additionally, the journalist in the CBS news video specifically uses the U.S. Census Bureau measurement of income inequality — household income. This data is then formally presented by the quintile, which is the population divided into fifths, thus, now you understand the logic behind the five plates/classes within the video.

Why does all of this matter? Do people actually assume that such a multifaceted topic could be accurately presented through slices of pie? Yes, actually. Don't believe me, go check the twitter comments for yourself. Upon ending the video, most people would be justified in resenting capitalism, the rich, and/or the government...Now here's why you're wrong.

Futurama: Season 1, Episode 6

Teller: "Okay, you had a

balance of $.93 cents."

Fry: "Alright!"

Teller: "And adding an average of 2.25% interest over a period of 1000 years, that comes to...$4.3 billion dollars."

Fry: (On your left)

How is it that this buffoon, this pizza delivery boy, became a billionaire? Now we're asking the right questions. Even a moron who spends $4.3 billion dollars on a single can of anchovies, can climb the socioeconomic ladder with time.

Above is the starting sequence to one of my favorite series of all time, Mario Party. Beside it is the opening sequence to an NBA game. What do these two games have in common? In both situations, you have all players/teams agreeing to begin on equal terms. How is this any different from those occupying the same tax bracket? It isn't; in fact, the same facets deciding the winners and losers of Mario Party, and the NBA: consistency, talent, strategy, luck, etc. too will decide the winners and losers of any given tax bracket. Unsurprisingly, just how the woman in the video grew up in the lowest tax bracket, she now no longer exists in the same space per her own admission. In textbook language,

"The simple truth of the matter is the mundane reality that most people begin their working careers at the bottom entry level salaries. More than three quarters of those working Americans whose incomes were in the bottom 20% in 1975 were also in the top 40% of income earners at some point by 1991. Only 5% of those who were initially in the bottom quintile were still there in 1991 while 29% of those who were initially at the bottom quintile had risen to the top quintile, yet verbal virtuosity has transformed a transient cohort in a given statistical category into an enduring class called the poor." - Dr. Sowell

Believe it or not, my intention is not to burst bubbles but to incite fruitful discourse. Reality — the man to the left — is an ass, sure, but the greater our comprehension is of these economic ideas, the greater the standards of society become. I by no means believe this philosophy of, beginning upon equal footing, to be an applicable framework for understanding income inequality amongst countries, race, or various other groups. I do, by all means, believe this to be an important article for the sake of economics. Far too often are our perceptions of reality discussed at the surface level, and by extension, often the level most deceptive.

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