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rotesters armed with slogans like “we are the 99%”

lined sidewalks outside of Wall Street offices as part of

the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in 2011.

The movement and the slogan, which refers to the

distribution of wealth between the wealthiest 1% and the rest

of the population, brought increased attention to economic and

social inequality in the U.S.

The distribution of income and wealth is the most unequal

among comparable developed nations. In 2010, the richest

20% of Americans received about 50% of all income, while the

poorest 20% received less than 4%. The distribution of wealth,

which includes property and the value of stocks and bonds

owned by households, is even more skewed. Income and wealth

inequality in the U.S. has been steadily increasing since about

1970 and the recent economic troubles intensified this trend.

Income and wealth distribution is one of several current

issues analyzed and debated by Lycoming Sociology and

Economics majors. Through their studies, they learn how poor

P

By Elizabeth Moorhouse, Ph.D.

Solutions

for wealth

distribution

impeded by

attitudes

WORLD VALUES SURVEY

POLL OF 40

COUNTRIES

“The poor could escape

poverty if they worked

hard enough.”

71%

40%

AMERICANS EUROPEANS

AGREE

Americans were nearly twice as likely

as Europeans to agree with the statement

“the poor could escape poverty

if they worked hard enough.”

people can get trapped in cycles of poverty and how wealthy

people continue to fuel their estates. Students consider many

factors that affect wealth including marital status, education,

and perceptions about class mobility.

The U.S. Census Bureau measures income by household

units and tracks the number headed by single parents or

married couples. The rising trend of households headed by

a single parent, with a single income to support all children,

clearly plays a role in the distribution of wealth by increasing

the number of households at the lower end of the income scale.

The single parent in these families is more likely to be a woman,

which brings gender into this complex issue.

Higher education is also a contributing factor. Although

the average tuition price for both private and state schools has

increased over the last fifty years, the college wage premium has

likewise increased. For families that can afford to send their

children to college, the economic benefits are lucrative. Families

that cannot afford college become more deeply entrenched in

22

LYCOMING COLLEGE 2015 SUMMER MAGAZINE

P E R S P E C T I V E S