In the article Inequality: Causes and Consequences, Kathryn M. Neckerman and Florencia Torche discuss the existing patterns, causes and consequences of economic inequality in the United States, including inequality of earnings, wealth, and opportunity. Their research refers to the social and political causes and consequences of inequality in such areas as “health, education, crime, social capital, and political power” (Neckerman & Torche, 2007, p. 335). In addition, they discuss world inequality, exploring the major inequality trends across different nations.
The researchers of this article have the major goal – to help readers to better understand the roots of this social problem and its effects on people, organizations and labor markets. In fact, economic inequality in the United States constitutes a social problem which required the appropriate solutions. According to George Ritzer (2004), “problems associated with economic inequality are closely linked to the level of development, with inequality being a far greater problem in developed nations than in less developed countries” (p. 10).
Undoubtedly, such social problem as economic inequality can be found both in developed and developing countries. In the United Sates, this issue is of great importance as the American nation is based on the principle: all people are created equal and should be treated equally. Most Americans believe that they are a part of the middle class that command a large part of American society. However, today there is an evidence of certain economic differences between the rich and the poor, although the United States provides equal opportunities for personal development.
According to Neckerman and Torche (2007), in the United States, the obvious economic disparities started to rise in the1970s, while the increased economic disparities can be easily identified today. One of the sociological researches, the long-term Luxembourg Income Study of 2000, proves the fact that economic inequality is much higher in the United States than in other industrialized countries. And “only two industrialized countries, Mexico and Russia have more income inequality than the United States” (Brinkerhoff et al. , 2007, p. 147).
It has been found that the lower class10% of American population has become extremely poor, while the upper class 10% has become extremely wealthier. The increased income inequality is closely connected with the changes in the economic system of the United States. The research shows that 80% of Americans work in service and retail occupations which pay lowers wages in comparison with the manufacturing jobs that “once dominated the US economy” (Brinkerhoff et al. , 2007, p. 147). In addition, practically all economic divisions try to replace well-paid permanent workers with lower-paid part-time workers.
Thus, the above mentioned changes combined with declining level of union membership and “a stationary minimum wage” has contributed to the lower incomes of poor and working class Americans. The primary patterns and causes of inequality in the United States based on the article Inequality: Causes and Consequences are focused on the three areas of inequality: inequality in wealth, inequality of opportunity and wage inequality. The authors of the article pay special attention to the recent trends and are based on the major factors that are driving distributional outcomes in the United States.
To start with, one of the major causes of inequality in the United States is wage inequality which remains stable despite economic crisis. High skilled employees get higher wages than unskilled workers. In addition, inequality matters in contemporary society help to better understand the differences in economic well-being of all Americans. The authors of the article believe that inequality at one point in time may affect inequality in the next generation, what gives explanation to the issue of equality of opportunity, or the so-called social mobility (Neckerman, & Torche, 2007, p. 39). One more cause of inequality in the United States is inequality in wealth.
Today “wealth is more unevenly distributed than income,” according to Neckerman and Torche (2007, p. 338). In the United States, wealth inequality is connected with the increase of states by the well-paid employees. In fact, wealth increase is one of the basic motivators of behavior of Americans. As wealth is concentrated in the hands of the smaller part of the population, wealth inequality can be viewed as one of the most important causes of inequality in the United States.
I support the above mentioned causes and patterns of inequality in the United States because the authors’ ideas are based on the reliable sources, such as numerous sociological and economic researches conducted by the experts in economic issues and based on the proper statistical data. Moreover, the causes of inequality represented in the article have already been identified by many economists and sociologists. Finally, I support the causes and patterns of inequality provided by the authors of the article because they are similar to my personal views and ideas on this subject.
For example, I believe that wage inequality in the United States is affected by the following factors: the increased international trade and considerable technological changes, the growth of immigration and improved training practices and education. It is clear that the increased international trade and technological improvements in all ranges of human activity require highly skilled workers, promoting wage inequality. In addition, increased level of immigration of unskilled workers “results in a decrease in the supply of skilled workers relative to unskilled workers”(Carbaugh, 2011, p. 3).
This fact means that immigration promotes wage inequality in the United States. Wage inequality between skilled and unskilled workers can be reduced due to the adequate education and training of workers. Thus, my ideas concerning the major causes of inequality in the United States are similar to the authors’ ideas. Economic inequality in the United States may have a number of consequences not only for the country’s economy, but also for all Americans.
According to Neckerman and Torche (2007), economic inequality in the US society may “reinforce privilege among the affluent and disadvantage among the poor, reinforcing economic inequality in the next generation” (p. 340). This fact means that children from low income families can get less education and their earnings in adulthood will be lower. It is necessary to agree with this consequence of economic inequality because today many children from poor families have no chance to get good education and, as a result, they have low level of education. Without parental support, it is very difficult to get a good education.
Children have to pay for their education. In case parents do not provide financial support to their children, they have to find a job in order to pay for their studies at colleges or universities. In addition, economic inequality may lead to poor health of a particular population. The authors of the article state that social inequality has negative consequences for human health because “it undermines social capital, or because it is associated with poorer social welfare provisions or other institutional arrangements that disadvantage the poor” (Neckerman & Torche, 2007, p. 341).
In fact, there may be some other effects on human health, such as direct and indirect effects of stress on human health (alcohol/drug abuse, depression, mental disorders, etc. ). This fact is true because if an individual has no money to buy medication, food and services, he/she will not be able to improve health. There is clear evidence that poverty and economic inequality may lead to health problems, according to Ichiro Kawachi, who links economic inequality to mortality (2000, p. 86). Finally, economic inequality in the United States has negative consequences for social order.
According to the recent researches and theories, the individual’s decision to commit a crime is often “driven by the potential criminal’s calculation of expected returns; in this framework, inequality may raise the expected returns from property crime” (Neckerman & Torche, 2007, p. 343). It is necessary to agree with this statement as economic inequality is closely connected with criminal behavior of individuals. According to the frustration-aggression theory, income inequality can be viewed as “the major source of frustration” (Pare, 2006, p. 9).
Many individuals in our society want to assess and compare the level of their happiness with others. This unavoidable social comparison process means that “dissatisfaction with income inequality leads to frustration and violence” (Pare, 2006, p. 9). When looking at economic inequality worldwide, the key issues that researchers should be concerned with, are based on more economic global change, economic growth in some countries and declines in other countries. I believe that the majority of developing countries will be left behind in an ever growing global economy.
It has been found that most researchers are focused on the study of disparities within the United States and other industrialized nations. Many developing countries which face economic inequality are not discussed in the media. It is very important to explore global inequality and its consequences for all nations. It is clear that disparities across nations may lead to conflicts and misunderstanding. Neckerman and Torche (2007) discuss some possible consequences of global inequality, including “relative deprivation, the concentration of power” (p. 346). Grahame F.
Thompson (2007) explores the relationships between the growing international economy, global inequality and globalization processes and states that “there is no single and correct way to measure global inequality” (p. 182). In fact, global inequality is a rather complex phenomenon which cannot be described without evaluation of the consequences of the global economic growth. One of the economists, Stanley Fischer, considers that there are two contradictory trends in global inequality. Actually, he states that global inequality between different nations was increasing during the period of 1980 – 2000.
In order to decrease global inequality, the poor countries would have had to experience much “higher rates of economic growth than rich countries” (Thompson, 2007, p. 178). On the other hand, he states that if rich countries continue to grow faster than poor countries, then global inequality would increase. In addition, global inequality is affected by globalization. Many globalization critics point out to the fact that globalization has worsened global inequality, while the defenders of globalization state the opposite.
As global inequality refers to the disproportionate distribution of income and wealth across all nations, different nations have unequal benefits from economic operations. According to Ritzer (2004), global inequality increases because the poor nations obtain a smaller part of a fixed per capita income for the world, what leads to the rise of poverty. However, there is clear evidence that globalization can compress global inequality. In fact, globalization leads to the faster diffusion of production technologies to poorer nations, what leads to reduction of global income inequality.
The existing global inequality is the result of uneven regional growth rates during the past centuries, when the majority of Western countries moved ahead, while many Asian and African lagged behind. Today sociologists have learned much about economic inequality. However, there are still many questions about the major causes of economic inequality in today’s environment. The empirical studies show considerable changes in the minimum wage and union membership, as well as other institutional factors that affect economic inequality.
It has been found that economic inequality is a complex phenomenon that influences the lives of all individuals in the world. The rise in economic inequality is not a transitory process, and it has certain implications for social and political life, health, crime, educational attainment and other consequences. The researchers have found that the major patterns and causes of economic inequality in the United States are inequality in wealth, wage inequality and inequality of opportunities. In addition, a considerable increase in immigration over the past 20 years increased income disparities in the United Sates.
According to the recent research, the majority of immigrants come from poor countries to the United States in order to find a well-paid job. One more factor of economic inequality is different education attainment of individuals. The US Census Bureau indicates that occupational achievement of individuals and the ability to perform tasks with the use of scarce skills provide higher incomes. Thus, education remains one of the major factors that influence income distribution, there by having a considerable effect on economic inequality.
Global inequality may have certain implications for international relations, as well as it may increase relative deprivation among nations. Besides, global inequality may have social and political consequences, “depending on the individual’s perception and interpretation of inequality, mediated by social relations, institutions and cultural context” (Neckerman & Torche, 2007, p. 351). Thus, a number of solutions have been suggested that would support a more equal or fair economic environment within the United States and worldwide. First of all, it would be better to reduce inequalities in earnings.
In order to reduce inequalities in income, it is required to develop and implement the appropriate policies, such as introducing a minimum wage at a reasonable level, reducing unemployment in the United States and worldwide, adopting progressive taxation system, according to which “tax rate should be increased with the increase of income level”, redistributing labor resources more effectively, providing total control over the existing monopoly prices, providing social security policies, such as pensions, unemployment allowances, etc. (Jain & Khanna, 2007, p. 66).
Secondly, wealth inequality should be reduced through effective taxation system. According Mott Tracy (2010), “wealth inequality is much more severe than income inequality and is the major contributor to income inequality” (p. 136). The individuals, who have accumulated wealth, should be ready to pay wealth taxes. Thirdly, inequality of opportunity should be eliminated through effective strategies, such as providing equal opportunity to getting education, healthcare services, etc. (Becker, p. 137). In fact, many nations realize the importance of equal opportunity today, and try to make opportunity accessible to all members of society.
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