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
By Elizabeth Moorhouse, Ph.D.
WORLD VALUES SURVEY
POLL OF 40
“The poor could escape
poverty if they worked
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
LYCOMING COLLEGE 2015 SUMMER MAGAZINE
P E R S P E C T I V E S