Income inequality is the extent of distributing revenues unequally among the groups in the society. Income inequality is an existing social issue that has not obtained a solution until today. The gap between the rich and the poor in America continues to grow. The rich continue to get rich while the poor continue to be poor. The effect of income inequality has been the inability of the poor to enjoy a comfortable life like their counterparts. The low income earning households continues to spend more while the rich have increased savings. It is a challenge for the poor to get quality health care services and education. Including other negative effects, income inequality in the U.S is a social issue that needs addressing to ensure the impact is prevented to the minimum. To gain an in-depth understanding of the subject, the paper explores income inequality in the U.S as a social problem from the perspective of its scope, better ways of prevention, concepts and the sociological theory related to the subject. The purpose of exploring the topic is to establish its future impact.
The Scope of Income Inequality in the U.S
In the U.S, income inequality as a social issue has remained pronounced for the last 30 to 50 years until today. Based on the statistics, income disparities between the rich and the poor have remained stagnant since 1980, 10% of the population only account for the rich while 90% are the poor (Tyson, 2017). The rich population earns about nine times the income of the poor people. They take home about 198 times the income of the lowest earning population in the 90%. While the rich are doubling their earnings since 1973, the poor still struggle to earn extra revenue. Between the year 1973 and 2007, the income growth of the rich grew by 7.5 times from 0.8% to as high as 6% (Saez, 2016). Even with the effect of the great recession in 2008, the income levels of the rich were not affected. The poor felt the increasing surge of the economy with them continued spending that wears out their little income.
Since 1979, income inequality in the U.S is still pronounced. The income of the 10% rich population has increased by four times faster when compared to the income of the 20% low income earning citizens (Congressional Budget Office, 2016). Unions play a smaller role in regulating income in the U.S which contributes to the greater disparity of income between the top level and low-level employees. Since 1980 up to 2016, a CEO has been earning eight times the salary of the common worker or low-level employee. Their retirement benefit also varies widely and the gap is huge with a CEO earning $4.7 billion while a worker earned $18,433 (Anderson, 2016).
Women earn less than men in the U.S. Those in the 10% group of the rich only account for only 11% of that population. Further, the increase in low wages for workers increase the economic effects felt mostly by the poor. The problem seems to continue as the low-income families and workers serving in the restaurants and bars. They end up spending much of their income instead of saving unlike the rich (Anderson, 2017). With the persistence of income inequality in America over the years, the social issue requires the implementation of appropriate measures to ensure the poor achieve a better life by improving their living standards.
Better Ways of Solving the Social Problem of Income Inequality in the U.S
In order to address the problem of income inequality in the U.S, I think that there is the need for finding a balance between the high and low-income earners in the society. It is necessary for the government to require wealth redistribution for all citizens to achieve an improved living standard. Such as action will allow the poor to own estates, get better salaries and wages and retirement benefits. Gender equality in the workplace will promote better paychecks for women who earn less than their counterparts.
As a sociologist, I think that it is not appropriate to expect the low-income earners to bear the economic burden of spending more forever. The government has a role to intervene and provide employment training and access to education for those earning low incomes. It would create more and better-paying jobs for the poor and ability to meet the high cost of living within the country. I think that wealth redistribution is a better strategy in dealing with the social problem of income inequality than providing welfare benefits and having a policy for universal basic income. The latter two will not meet the balance of income equality in the long run. In that case, the government should raise taxes for the 10% rich population to pay for the needs of the poor such as education and healthcare. A gradual change will be achieved in the income equality for the rich and the poor.
Concepts Related to Income Inequality
Various concepts that relate to income inequality include stratification, sexism, wealth, and poverty. Sexism entails discrimination based on gender. The concept of sexism helps understand income inequality in the U.S as related to discrimination of women in the workplace and earning fewer wages when compared to men. In that case, more women are poor than men as they earn smaller amounts of money.
Stratification is the creation of classes or categories. It is a concept that helps one in understanding income inequality in the U.S by how classes of the rich and the poor are created in the society based on the income levels earned. The rich earn more than the poor and therefore the two become unequal in the society.
Wealth is what an individual owns which may include money, property and any other form of valuable possession. Wealth explains income inequality as a social problem in the U.S since the poor own little or no property, money and other valuable possessions unlike the rich. The situation makes them live on their daily wages while the rich who own property and high income save more.
Poverty is the status of lacking enough money. This concept helps understands the social problem of income inequality as those who don't have enough money are said to live in poverty. Since the rich have enough money, they do not live in poverty and the difference between the rich and the poor explain income inequality.
A Theoretical Idea that Relates to Income Inequality
A major theoretical perspective that relates to the social problem of income inequality is the conflict theory which states that all aspects of the society occur as a result of a difference between groups or classes. Different groups compete in creating rules for the society and the one that wins; it dictates what is to happen. The conflict theory helps in understanding the social problem of income inequality since the issues occur as a result of the elite controlling and manipulating the poor. According to Newman, Johnston, and Lown (2015), income inequality in the US is due to social classes and class conflict. The poor experience higher income inequality than the rich. It explains the wealth gap between these two groups in the society.
Looking at the income inequality in the U.S, the conflict theory explains the social issue since the inequality tends to activate class conflicts with the rich dictating politics and trade. The poor become class conscious and remains with the option of accepting the inequality in income. They become the poor in the society and confronting the disadvantaged position in the economic hierarchy (Solt, Hu, Hudson, Song, & Yu 2016). Those earning low income become class conscious and continue suffering at the expense of the rich who are more privileged with economic rewards. Conflicts in class continue in the U.S society because less has been done to deal with the social problem. For instance, much of the property is owned by the rich and especially the real estate. As per the conflict theory, one understands income inequality as originating from a difference in the two classes where the rich continue pocketing rent money coming out of the poor population. The low income earning citizens increase spending while the rich continue saving from the real estate incomes.
In conclusion, the social issue of income inequality is evident in the U.S with the poor forming the largest percentage of the population. The rich earn four times the income of the lowest earning citizens. Based on the statistics, the income inequality gap widens every year in the U.S. It shows that the future impact of income inequality will still remain with the poor experiencing low standards of living, inability to afford quality education and healthcare as well as increased spending on basic needs. Better measures to prevent income inequality explain the need for taking appropriate action with the government at the forefront to set higher taxes for the rich to cater to the needs of the poor. In this case, it will be easy to achieve a balance in wealth distribution.
Anderson, S. (2016, December). Report: A tale of two retirements. Institute of Policy Studies. Retrieved from https://www.ips-dc.org/report-tale-two-retirements/
Anderson, S. (2017). Report: The Wall Street bonus pool and low wage workers. Institute of Policy Studies. Retrieved from http://www.ips-dc.org/report-wall-street-bonus-pool-2017/
Congressional Budget Office. (2016, June). The distribution of household income and federal taxes, 2013. Report. Retrieved from https://www.cbo.gov/publication/51361
Newman, B., Johnston C., & Lown, P. (2015). False consciousness or class awareness? Local income inequality, personal economic position, and belief in American meritocracy. American Journal of Political Science, 59(2): 326-340.
Saez, E. (2016, June). Striking it richer: the evolution of top incomes in the United States. Berkeley. Retrieved from https://eml.berkeley.edu/~saez/saez-UStopincomes-2015.pdf
Solt, F., Hu, Y., Hudson, K., Song, J., & Yu, D. (2016). Economic inequality and belief in a meritocracy in the United States. Research and Politics, 1-7.
Tyson, L. (2016). The Rising Costs of U.S. Income Inequality. HuffPost. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-tyson/us-income-inequality-costs_b_6249904.html
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