Courtesy of John J. Theis, Ph.D, Lone Star College, Kingwood (TX)
Inequality is a major issue in the United States. Working people on both the left and the right are apprehensive of the future: seeing their standard of living dropping, their jobs teetering precariously with threats of outsourcing and downsizing, and worrying about a country where their children and grandchildren will in all probability grow up with lower standards of living than they had. Statistics support their concerns as workers’ wages have remained flat since the 1970s. The latest data from the CIA world Fact Book (https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2172.html#51) shows that the United States is one of the few countries where income inequality is significantly worsening. In addition, The United States has the highest level of inequality among industrialized democracies, rivaling the levels of inequality in Rwanda and Bolivia. While industrialized democracies of Western Europe sit in the mid to low 30’s on the GINI Index, the United States sits at 45. Even Russia, with all the talk of a new oligarchy emerging out of the old communist regime, boasts a level of inequality below the United States at 42.
Michael Morton from Harvard and Dan Ariely from Duke have done some interesting research showing that the vast majority of Americans are unhappy with the distribution of wealth preferring instead a distribution that mirrors the Scandinavian social democracies. This was true of all socio-economic groups. (http://www.people.hbs.edu/mnorton/norton%20ariely%20in%20press.pdf) The more disturbing finding coming out of that work is that the overwhelming majority of Americans do not realize just how unequal the United States has become. As the authors note, “our results demonstrate that Americans appear to drastically underestimate the current level of wealth inequality, suggesting they may simply be unaware of the gap.” If Americans want a fairer society and fail to understand how unequal the society is a concerted effort must be made to educate Americans on the actual distribution of wealth.
As part of the joint ADP/TDC Economic Inequality Initiative, Lone Star College is proud to announce a conference aimed at precisely that goal. In cooperation with University of Houston-Downtown and Tarrant County Community College –Southeast, we will be hosting a civic engagement conference to share the pedagogies and activities that colleges and universities are using to have discussions about inequality. The conference on November 6th and 7th in Houston brings together students, faculty and staff from across the country to learn about economic inequality, share efforts being made on their campuses and in their communities. Confirmed speakers are economists James Galbraith from the University of Texas and Dean Baker from the Economic Policy Institute as well as political scientists Benjamin Page of Northwestern and Nicholas Carnes of Duke. Concurrent sessions will feature presentations from faculty as well as a dedicated student track. This promises to be an informative and exciting conference and proposals are now being accepted.
For a conference flyer, please click here.