# 19 Inequality and Poverty CHAPTER. 19 Inequality and Poverty CHAPTER.

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19 Inequality and Poverty CHAPTER

C H A P T E R C H E C K L I S T When you have completed your study of this chapter, you will be able to Describe the economic inequality and poverty in the United States. 1 Explain how economic inequality and poverty arise. 2 Explain why governments redistribute income and describe the effects of redistribution on economic inequality and poverty. 3

19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY We measure economic inequality by looking at the distributions of income and wealth. A household’s income is the amount that it receives in a given period. A household’s wealth is the value of the things that it owns at a point in time. Table 19.1 on the next slide shows the distributions of income and wealth in the United States in 2004.

19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY

Lorenz Curves 19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY
A Lorenz curve is a curve that graphs the cumulative percentage of income (or wealth) against the cumulative percentage of households. Figure 19.1 on the next slide shows the Lorenz curves for the United States in They are based on the tables you’ve just seen.

19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY The cumulative percentages of income and wealth are graphed against the cumulative percentage of households. 1. If each 20 percent of households received 20 percent of total income, there would be no rich and poor—there would be equality as shown by the Line of equality.

19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY 2. The distribution of income shows that the poorest 20 percent of households received 3.5 percent of total income, and the richest 20 percent received 50.1 percent. 3. The distribution of wealth shows that the poorest 40 percent of households owned 0.2 percent of total wealth, and the richest 1 percent owned 38.1 percent.

19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY The farther the Lorenz curve is from the Line of equality, the greater is the inequality. The distribution of wealth is much more unequal than the distribution of income.

Inequality over Time 19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY
U.S. income and wealth have become more unequal over the past few decades. The highest incomes have increased much faster than the lower incomes. The gap between rich and poor has widened. Figure 19.2(a) on the next slide shows how the distribution of income has changed.

19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY The average income of the lowest 20 percent group increased from \$7,700 to \$10,300—an increase of 34 percent. The average income of three middle groups also increased by 34 percent. The average income of highest 20 percent increased by 77 percent.

19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY Economic Mobility
Economic mobility is the movement of a family up or down the income ladder and through the income quintiles (20 percent groups). If there were no economic mobility, a family would be stuck at a given point in the income distribution— persistently rich to persistently poor. How much economic mobility has there been?. Figure 19.2(b) shows the percentage of families that moved by one quintile or more over a ten-year period.

19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY The figure shows quite a lot of economic mobility. About 30 percent of families move up a quintile or more in a decade; Slightly smaller percentage move down by a quintile or more; Between 35 and 40 percent remain in the same quintile.

Who are the Rich and the Poor?
19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY Who are the Rich and the Poor? The lowest-income household in the United States today is likely to be a black woman over 65 years of age who lives alone somewhere in the South and has fewer than nine years of elementary school education. The highest-income household in the United States today is likely to be a college-educated white married couple between 45 and 54 years of age living together with two children somewhere in the Northeast or the West.

19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY The median income in 2004 was \$44,389.
Education is the single biggest factor affecting household income distribution. Size of household, marital status, and age of householder are also important. Race and region are the least important.

Poverty 19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY
Poverty is a state in which a household’s income is too low to be able to buy the quantities of food, shelter, and clothing that are deemed necessary. In 2004, the poverty level for a four-person household was an income of \$19,157. In that year, 37 million or 12.7 percent of Americans lived below the poverty level. Figure 19.4 on the next slide shows the changing poverty rate in the United States.

19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY The white poverty rate fell during the 1960s and has remained constant since then. The Hispanic poverty rate increased during the 1980s before falling during the 1990s. The black poverty rate has fallen in two waves: the late 1960s and the late 1990s.

Poverty Duration 19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY
Another measure of poverty is duration. Duration of poverty is an important indicator of the hardship poverty brings. Figure 19.5 on the next slide shows the duration of poverty in the United States from 1996 to 1999.

19.1 ECONOMIC INEQUALITY More than 50 percent of poverty last for between 2 and 4 months. But almost 30 percent of poverty lasts for more than 9 months. These families experience chronic poverty.

19.2 HOW INEQUALITY AND POVERTY ARISE
Economic inequality and poverty arise from five key factors Human capital Discrimination Financial and physical capital Entrepreneurial ability Personal and family characteristics We look at each in turn.

19.2 HOW INEQUALITY AND POVERTY ARISE
Human Capital High-skilled workers have a higher value of marginal product than low-skilled workers. Figure 19.6(a) on the next slide illustrates the demand for high-skilled and low-skilled labor.

19.2 HOW INEQUALITY AND POVERTY ARISE
Demand for High-Skilled and Low-Skilled Labor High-skilled labor has a higher VMP than low-skilled labor and a greater demand. The demand curve for high-skilled labor, DH, lies above the demand curve for low-skilled labor, DL, by the VMP of skill.

19.2 HOW INEQUALITY AND POVERTY ARISE
The Supply of High-Skilled and Low-Skilled Labor Skills are costly to acquire, and a worker pays the cost of acquiring a skill before benefiting from a higher wage. Figure 19.6(b) on the next slide illustrates the supply of high-skilled and low-skilled labor

19.2 HOW INEQUALITY AND POVERTY ARISE
High-skilled labor bears the cost of acquiring skill. The supply curve of high-skilled labor, SH, lies above the supply curve of low-skilled labor, SL, by the compensation for the cost of acquiring skill.

19.2 HOW INEQUALITY AND POVERTY ARISE
Wage Rates of High-Skilled and Low-Skilled Labor The combined effects of skill on the demand for and supply of labor generate a higher wage for high-skilled labor than for low-skilled labor. Figure 19.6(c) on the next slide illustrates the skilled wage differential.

19.2 HOW INEQUALITY AND POVERTY ARISE
The demand for low-skilled labor, DL, and the supply of low-skilled labor, SL, determine the wage rate of low-skilled labor—in this example at \$10 an hour. The demand for high-skilled labor, DH, and the supply of high-skilled labor, SH, determine the wage rate of high-skilled labor—in this example at \$20 an hour.

19.2 HOW INEQUALITY AND POVERTY ARISE
Discrimination Human capital differences explain much of the income inequality that exists. Economists are not sure whether and by how much discrimination adds to income inequality. One line of argument is that competition prevents discrimination. But race and sex income differences do persist.

19.2 HOW INEQUALITY AND POVERTY ARISE
Financial and Physical Capital People with high incomes are usually those who own large amounts of financial capital and physical capital. They receive income in form of interest, dividends, and capital gains. Families with a lot of capital tend to become even more wealthy because They bequeath wealth to their children. Rich people marry rich people (on average).

19.2 HOW INEQUALITY AND POVERTY ARISE
Saving and wealth accumulation is not inevitably a source of inequality. When a family saves to redistribute an uneven income over the life cycle, it enjoys more equal consumption. If a lucky generation that has a high income saves and makes a bequest to an unlucky generation, this saving decreases economic inequality.

19.2 HOW INEQUALITY AND POVERTY ARISE
Entrepreneurial Ability Some people become extremely rich through a combination of hard work, good luck, and outstanding entrepreneurial ability. But others who borrow to create a business, work hard, and have bad luck become extremely poor. Personal Characteristics Personal and family characteristics play a crucial role, for good or evil, in influencing economic well-being.

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
How Government Redistributes Income Three main ways in which governments in the United States redistribute income are Income taxes Income maintenance programs Subsidized services

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
Income Taxes Income taxes may be progressive, regressive, or proportional. A progressive tax One that taxes income at an average rate that increases with the level of income. A regressive tax One that taxes income at an average rate that decreases with the level of income. A proportional tax One that taxes income at a constant rate, regardless of income.

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
Income Maintenance Programs Three main types of program are Social Security programs Unemployment compensation Welfare programs

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
Social Security Programs OASDHI or Old age, Survivors, Disability, and Health Insurance Medicare, which provides hospital and health insurance for the elderly and disabled.

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
Unemployment Compensation To provide an income to unemployed workers. A tax is paid based on the income of each covered worker. Each worker receives a benefit when he or she becomes unemployed.

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
Welfare Programs 1. Supplementary Security Income (SSI), designed to help the neediest elderly, disabled, and blind people. 2. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, designed to help households that have inadequate income. 3. Food Stamp program, designed to help the poorest households obtain a basic diet. 4. Medicaid, designed to cover the costs of medical care for households receiving help under the SSI and TANF programs.

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
Subsidized Services Services provided by the government at prices far below the cost of production. The most important of these are Education Health care

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
The Scale of Income Redistribution Market income is the income that a household earns in factor markets with no redistribution. Money income is market income plus money benefits paid by the government. We can measure the scale of income redistribution by calculating the percentage of market income paid in taxes minus the percentage received in benefits at each income level.

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
Figure 19.7 shows income redistribution. In part (a), the Lorenz curve for the distribution of income after taxes and benefits is closer to the line of equality than the money income distribution and the market income distribution. In part (b), the three lowest income groups gain and the two highest income groups lose.

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
Why We Redistribute Income Two approaches: Normative approach Discusses why we should compel everyone to help the poor and looks for principles to guide in the appropriate scale of redistribution. Positive approach Seeks reasons why we do compel everyone to help the poor and tries to explain the actual scale of redistribution.

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
Normative Theories of Income Redistribution Utilitarianism points to the ideal distribution being one of equality. But efficiency is also desirable. Greater equality can be achieved only at the cost of inefficiency—the big tradeoff. John Rawls proposed the principle that income should be redistributed to the point at which the poorest person’s share is maximized.

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
Libertarian philosophers, such as Robert Nozick, say that any redistribution is wrong because it violates the sanctity of private property and voluntary exchange. Modern political parties stand in the center of these extremes—some favor a bit more redistribution than others, but the major parties are basically happy with the current scale of redistribution.

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
Positive Theories of Income Redistribution There is no good positive theory, but economists have a promising idea called the median voter theory. Median voter theory is a theory that government pursues policies that make the median voter as well off as possible. In the majority voting system, the voter whose views carry most weight is the one in the middle—the median voter. Political parties will deliver the scale of redistribution that the median voter prefers.

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
The Major Welfare Challenge The poorest people in the United States are young women who have not completed high school, have a child (or children), live without a partner, and are more likely to be black or Hispanic than white. These young women and their children present the major welfare challenge: The long-term solution involves education and job training. The short-term solution is welfare.

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
Welfare must be designed to strengthen the incentive to pursue the long-term solution while giving support in the short term. The Current Approach: TANF TANF is a block grant paid to the states to administer payments to individuals. An adult member of a household receiving assistance must work or perform community service. Assistance is limited to 5 years. Some economists suggest a negative income tax.

19.3 INCOME REDISTRIBUTION
Negative Income Tax A negative income tax is a tax and redistribution scheme that provides every household with a guaranteed minimum annual income and taxes all earned income above the guaranteed minimum at a fixed rate. A negative income tax does not remove the burden of the tax but it does improve the incentives to work and save at all levels of income.