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Inequality & Equity From individual circumstance to collective challenge Patrick Bresette –

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Presentation on theme: "Inequality & Equity From individual circumstance to collective challenge Patrick Bresette –"— Presentation transcript:

1 Inequality & Equity From individual circumstance to collective challenge Patrick Bresette – Anika Fassia –

2 Inequality – a Tough Subject for Americans



5 Defending the Dream: Why Income Inequality Doesn’t Threaten Opportunity The real American Dream is first and foremost about hard work and the opportunities created by a free economy. Stemming from our founding principles, it can be summed up by a simple equation: Economic Freedom + Culture of Work = Prosperity and Opportunity - Heritage Foundation

6 With Pluck and Luck The Triumphant Individual Independence From Rags to Riches “Self-Made Man” – Irene Ritter

7 The Individual Actor Economy Implications: Moral qualities and personal choices shape economic actions and outcomes

8 “Most Americans strongly believe in working hard and moving up the ladder of success. They "identify up" with people more rich, famous, and lucky than they, rather than “identifying down" with people more poor, obscure, and unlucky.” 12/3/2010 The Chauffeur's Dilemma 2/5 Identifying Up

9 The Morality of Reward & Punishment Tax the Rich? “Here’s the problem with fairness: Fair is never really fair. In order to put everyone on an equal footing, you have to take from one group to give to the other. That means penalizing those who excel, those who have put forth the most effort, those who often have made the biggest sacrifices and taken the biggest risks, and rewarding those who have done the least. It sends the message that achievement will be punished while apathy will be praised. That’s hardly the spirit of innovation that built this nation, and it’s not the kind of attitude that will continue propelling it forward through the 21st century.”

10 Fairness... Its Complicated

11 We cannot just tell a morality tale; we need to talk about inequality as a structural problem that requires structural solutions

12 Spike in Attention to Economic Inequality (Thanks #OWS) References to “income inequality

13 “... I have always been fascinated by the apparent tolerance in the United States for a huge gap between rich and poor. Survey data from a few years ago show that this tolerance has been due to the American public’s strong belief that you can be poor today but rich tomorrow, that your children will do better than you, and that anyone who works hard and has a certain amount of talent can make it in America... Now it seems many Americans have decided that playing by the rules doesn’t work... It is not the outcomes they complain about but the fact that the game itself is not fair.” - Isabel Sawhill, Brookings the-demise-of-the-american-dream.php Growing sense that the game is rigged


15 Americans’ Perceptions of Inequality

16 Americans would prefer Sweden’s Level of Inequality Top Quintile has 84% of WealthTop Quintile has 36% of Wealth








24 Summary of Grady/Aubrun Challenges: Unequal outcomes don’t indicate a problem Individual responsibility is a deeply ingrained value Cognitive blindness to systemic factors Historical perspectives offer little help Us/Them thinking “Rhetorical mode” = closed minds Guilt and denial Compassion fatigue Powerlessness

25 At minimum, we need INEQUALITY to convey: 1.intentionality 2.unfairness 3.detectability 4.alterability 5.not inevitable. In other words, differences are a product of deliberate action, caused by unequal conditions, measurable and changeable. Anat Shenker-Osorio

26 Anat Shenker-Osorio Inequality is a Barrier, not a Gap

27 Inequality as a “Barrier” An obstacle for: “access to resources”, “access to opportunities”“participating fully in the economy” Holds people back

28 Inequality as a “Barrier” It implies all people are equally capable and deserving It suggests inequality has structural and deliberate causes; “barriers” are generally understood as man-made, not natural It suggests a role for the audience, you can further develop and specify, in breaking down barriers It’s tangible and part of lived experience, we’ve all faced impediments

29 Narrowing the Gap, Leveling the Field: How We Talk About Economic Inequality Anat Shenker-Osorio, May 2010 Avoid: inequality as a “gap”, inequality as top/bottom

30 Inequality as Vertigo

31 “An economy that has gotten off-kilter” “Excessive inequality leads to instability” It implies there’s an economic system that can be externally swayed or put o# its axis It’s tangible and part of lived experience, we’ve all lost our balance

32 Summary of Grady/Aubrun Recommendations: Highlight practical steps that can be taken Find ways to link the issue to “all of us.” Talk about the harms of Inequality itself – ways in which gaps are inherently corrosive of overall wellbeing Be careful to explain the causes in ways that are hard to tie to individual choices and behavior Depict affected parties in language and pictures that help audiences identify with them rather than creating distance between them

33 “Ultimately, Inequality is about our society, not individuals. It needs to be seen as a structural problem: a matter of public policy, not just personal behavior. When some have a lot and others have little, the tendency is to attribute this circumstance to individual effort. But most sources of Inequality are rooted in the way that we have organized our society, and how that organization ends up favoring one group over another. To accelerate progress in eliminating structural inequalities we have to talk more effectively about structures, say why they matter, and offer tangible solutions for transforming them.” From: Provoking Thought, Changing Talk: Putting it into Practice Lori Dorfman, Dr.P.H., Berkeley Media Studies Group & Lawrence Wallack, Dr.P.H., College of Urban & Public Affairs, Portland State University

34 Application and Discussion: How can we talk about Inequality effectively?

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