As seen on JoS… the free online version of an Economist article from the 29th December 2004 issue can be found here.
Somewhat fluffy but contains some interesting figures, such as:
[ul][li]Between 1979 and 2000 the real income of households in the lowest fifth (the bottom 20% of earners) grew by 6.4%, while that of households in the top fifth grew by 70%
[/li][li]Thirty years ago the average real annual compensation of the top 100 chief executives was $1.3m: 39 times the pay of the average worker. Today it is $37.5m: over 1,000 times the pay of the average worker.
[/li][li]In 2001 the top 1% of households earned 20% of all income and held 33.4% of all net worth. Not since pre-Depression days has the top 1% taken such a big whack.
[/li][li]In the 1990s 36% of those who started in the second-poorest 20% stayed put, compared with 28% in the 1970s and 32% in the 1980s.
[/li][li]A person born into the top fifth is over five times as likely to end up at the top as a person born into the bottom fifth.
[/li][li]Mr Solon [U of Michigan] finds that the correlation between the incomes of fathers and sons is higher in the United States than in Germany, Sweden, Finland or Canada.[/ul]
[/li]And on the subject of higher education:
Upward mobility is increasingly determined by education. The income of people with just a high-school diploma was flat in 1975-99, whereas that of people with a bachelor’s degree rose substantially, and that of people with advanced degrees rocketed.
The education system is increasingly stratified by social class, and poor children have a double disadvantage. They attend schools with fewer resources than those of their richer contemporaries (school finances are largely determined by local property taxes). And they have to deal with the legacy of what Michael Barone, a conservative commentator, has labelled “soft America”. Soft America is allergic to introducing accountability and measurement in education, particularly if it takes the form of merit pay for successful teachers or rewards for outstanding pupils. Dumbed-down schools are particularly harmful to poor children, who are unlikely to be able to compensate for them at home.
Three-quarters of the students at the country’s top 146 colleges come from the richest socio-economic fourth, compared with just 3% who come from the poorest fourth (the median family income at Harvard, for example, is $150,000). This means that, at an elite university, you are 25 times as likely to run into a rich student as a poor one.