Inequality In America Is Worse Than In Egypt, Tunisia Or Yemen → Washingtons Blog
Inequality In America Is Worse Than In Egypt, Tunisia Or Yemen - Washingtons Blog

Friday, January 28, 2011

Inequality In America Is Worse Than In Egypt, Tunisia Or Yemen

Egyptian, Tunisian and Yemeni protesters all say that inequality is one of the main reasons they're protesting.

However, the U.S. actually has much greater inequality than in any of those countries.

Specifically, the "Gini Coefficient" - the figure economists use to measure inequality - is higher in the U.S.

[Click for larger image]

Gini Coefficients are like golf - the lower the score, the better (i.e. the more equality).

According to the CIA World Fact Book, the U.S. is ranked as the 42nd most unequal country in the world, with a Gini Coefficient of 45.

In contrast:

  • Tunisia is ranked the 62nd most unequal country, with a Gini Coefficient of 40.
  • Yemen is ranked 76th most unequal, with a Gini Coefficient of 37.7.
  • And Egypt is ranked as the 90th most unequal country, with a Gini Coefficient of around 34.4.
And inequality in the U.S. has soared in the last couple of years, since the Gini Coefficient was last calculated, so it is undoubtedly currently much higher.

So why are Egyptians rioting, while the Americans are complacent?

Well, Americans - until recently - have been some of the wealthiest people in the world, with most having plenty of comforts (and/or entertainment) and more than enough to eat.

But another reason is that - as Dan Ariely of Duke University and Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School demonstrate - Americans consistently underestimate the amount of inequality in our nation.

As William Alden wrote last September:

Americans vastly underestimate the degree of wealth inequality in America, and we believe that the distribution should be far more equitable than it actually is, according to a new study.

Or, as the study's authors put it: "All demographic groups -- even those not usually associated with wealth redistribution such as Republicans and the wealthy -- desired a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo."

The report ... "Building a Better America -- One Wealth Quintile At A Time" by Dan Ariely of Duke University and Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School ... shows that across ideological, economic and gender groups, Americans thought the richest 20 percent of our society controlled about 59 percent of the wealth, while the real number is closer to 84 percent.

Here's the study:

norton ariely in press -


  1. Equality has more than one face. There is a significant difference between equality in opportunity and equality of results.

    In a game of basketball does anyone expect Danny Devito to be equal to Michael Jordon? In acting does anyone expect Michael Jordon to be equal to Danny Devito?

  2. Another reason is the U.S. puts fluoride in the water and other countries do not. The fluoride makes Americans complacent and docile. It is not just all the distractions, it is we are medicated to the max!

  3. yeah...but we're better at taking it up the ass here in the US. Americans bend over like no other species on the planet...and they love it!!

    I'm getting into the ass-fucking business too!



  5. Immigration could be part of the cause. According to Wiki, “Since the liberalization of immigration policy in 1965, the number of first-generation immigrants living in the United States has quadrupled, from 9.6 million in 1970 to about 38 million in 2007.” A fair proportion of these will be relatively uneducated or poor for other reasons: Muslims, Mexicans, etc.

  6. GW I am so glad you wrote on this subject. Your information matches the research I did yesterday, I was thinking of emailing Tyer to suggest the reasons for the collapse of the middle class in America as a subject matter.

    I came across an excellent lecture done in 2005 by Elizabeth Warren presenting her research at UC Berkley, regarding the reasons (supported by best available data, it is cited) for the demise of the middle class in the US. It is a bit long but very insightful. Breaks down the factual cost centers so you can follow the money.

  7. Concentrated wealth destroys democracies.

    We've been through this before. Apparently, we refuse to learn from history. The same measures we took back then will work this time around as well.

    There was a time when one worker made enough to support his/her family. Now it takes two and even that is not enough. Take a look at the marginal tax rate history of the wealthy and it's correlation to how well the middle class was doing.

    As Michael Hudson points out, the wealthy AND the middle class both did well when the tax rate was what appears to be very high.

  8. "Equality has more than one face. There is a significant difference between equality in opportunity and equality of results."

    Amply demonstrated by the first reply ... American's still believe the propaganda they've been told since birth. You know the bit about 'work hard and you'll succeed', all that 'land of opportunity' guff. Which in most other countries the people are smart enough to know is rubbish.

    It's not just the inequality it's the level of the majority. The USA still has a middle class standard of living well beyond that of most of the non-western world.

  9. The top 1% in the U.S. control essentially everything in this society.

    This is the top site on wealth inequality:

  10. Hey GW. Don't know if you saw this.

  11. I agree that the US is high up on inequality. But I'm not convinced that the Egyptians rose up spontaneously. It was ALLOWED. If this had been spontaneous or there was one main group behind it, the US would be demonizing the protesters. No. this in some way is a major move by the US/Israel (which includes the Brits). Notice that while all the ruckus has been going on Mubarak appoints what is sure to be his successor, Sullieman (or that is the intent). The Egyptians would then have an unelected leader (one that was most likely pre-approved by Washington, Tel Aviv and London.)

    The only mass protests that will be allowed in the US (and most likely instigated) will begin by minorities.

    These people in charge of the world are using all kinds of strategic planning models (even computer simulations) that simulate events before they are carried out. Its all controlled. One of these times it will backfire on them...We can only hope.

  12. Sahara it appears you are correct. Inequality is not the real reason for the protests. It is far more likely that our gov't is simply replacing old puppets with new ones, and the "revolution" was manufactured via the CIA psyop WikiLeaks:

  13. It's important to understand that these protests aren't occuring solely because of inequality. More of the anger is due to the population having no voice politically.

    Americans are more complacent about the inequality because we operate under the assumption that we have some say over the political process. Symbolically at least, we do. And that's enough for most people. But realistically, we have no say over any viable political candidate for high office - especially the presidency. Anyone not approved and endorsed by the corporate elites doesn't stand a chance. But we have freedom of speech, and we all get to vote, and the candiate with the most votes gets elected. But again, without the signoff of the corporate oligarchy, you can't even get on the ballot.

  14. There is an important quote from Wikipedia which suggests, perhaps, why people In Egypt and Tunisia are rioting and we aren't (yet):

    "If two countries have the same Gini coefficient but one is rich and the other is poor, it can be seen to measure two different things. In a poor country it measures the inequality in material life quality while in a rich country it measures the distribution of luxury beyond the basic necessities."


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