Policy Documents

Has Income Inequality Really Risen?

Scott Winship –
October 10, 2013

In this post at E21, Scott Winship contends that few serious scholars believe that middle class and poor households have seen the income growth experienced by the top in recent decades. However, a commitment to empiricism means not only refuting sketchy claims but taking seriously well-supported ones. Scholars, journalists, and policymakers are now confronted with such a responsibility in the inequality research of Cornell economist Richard Burkhauser and his colleagues. The study may force a rethinking of entire research literatures that presume inequality to be rising and that seek to explain it or to assess how it affects other outcomes. If inequality has not risen, that would also require policymakers to reassess the nature of various problems that are thought to be connected to it. If correct, their findings would affect debates over taxation, spending, deficits—even macroeconomic policy.