What's happened to income and wealth in America over the past 40 years? - Wealth and Poverty Class 1

And should we be concerned?


Good morning and welcome to the first day of class!

The questions we’ll focus on today: Is some inequality both inevitable and necessary? At what point, if ever, does it become a problem? What’s the difference between income and wealth inequality, and which is more important? How do income and wealth inequalities overlap with race and gender? And the real puzzle: why did these inequalities begin to widen so dramatically starting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and continue widening since then?

Even though this isn’t a real classroom and I’m not with you in person, I hope you find this both enjoyable and challenging. Don’t expect to learn by just watching and listening, though. I want you to be an active learner — which means answering questions I pose and putting various puzzle pieces together. I’m not going to tell you what to think. I’m going to try to provoke you into thinking harder and more deeply.

I’ve also selected some readings for you, which are listed right after the class video. Just click on the link. They’re a mix of academic journal articles, investigative reporting, policy papers, and newspaper op-eds. My goal is to expose you to a variety of perspectives, while also showcasing different arenas in which these conversations are being held. Don’t worry if you can’t get to all of them. There’s no exam! But as I tell my students, the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it.

Finally, after readings and at the bottom of this page, I pose a question to you.

Ready? Here goes!

Click here for the Class 1 slides.

Looking for another session? Click the link for: Class 2, Class 3, Class 4, Class 5, Class 6, Class 7, Class 8, Class 9, Class 10, Class 11, Class 12, Class 13, Class 14.

Select Readings:

Question for you: What would you have done in the $1,000 experiment — if you were the one to get the $1,000 and had to share it with someone else whose agreement was necessary in order that either of you get any? Or if you were the one to receive a share of the $1,000 from the original recipient, and had to agree in order that either of you receive any?


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A huge thanks to the Wealth & Poverty team — Aarin Walker, Mariel Mendoza, Michael Wiafe, and the whole teaching crew — for getting the Spring semester up and running in these uncertain times. Another debt of gratitude to Rudy Behrens, Whittney Suggs, Michael Lahanas-Calderón, and Kyle Parker for preparing these course videos to be shared with all of you. And to Kara Segal, Court Fuller, Katie Milne, and Heather Kinlaw Lofthouse for making all this happen on this page. I’m so fortunate to be working with such talented and thoughtful colleagues.