Inequality

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* The Ethical Economy: Rebuilding Value After the Crisis. Adam Arvidsson (sociology faculty, U of Milan, Italy; research fellow, Copenhagen Business School) and Nicolai Peitersen (London UK; founder, China Hanwang Forum). NY: Columbia U Press, July 2013, 224p, $32.50. A shifting global economy now offers the opportunity for a more ethical system to take root to balance the injustices of extreme poverty and wealth. Wealth creation can be the result of a new kind of social production no longer only characterized by the pursuit of private interests, materialist consumerism, and individual financial gain. Financial markets could become a central arena in which a diversity of ethical concerns could be integrated into tangible economic valuations. Advocates use of innovations such as open-source software, social-media platforms, socialized production, and other diffuse applications; these developments help initiate a radical democratization of financial markets and the value decisions they generate. (ETHICAL ECONOMY * ECONOMY AND JUSTICE * INEQUALITY)


* Routledge Handbook of Global Poverty and Inequality. Edited by David Hulme and Rorden Wilkinson (both, U of Manchester, UK). NY: Routledge, July 2014, 384p, $205 (www.routledge.com/9780415692410). An overview of current research and thinking, detailing the multiple ways in which poverty and inequality are manifest. The four sections are devoted to: 1) overviews of the history, geography, and extent of global poverty and inequality, as well as old and new ideas for amelioration; 2) key concepts in the field; 3) the intersection of global poverty and inequality with the environment, conflict, gender, ethics, hunger and food security, health, employment, and radicalization; 4) prominent ways in which resources have been mobilized to end poverty and attenuate inequality. (POVERTY * INEQUALITY * DEVELOPMENT)

 

* Report of the World Social Situation 2013. United Nations. NY: United Nations Publications, June 2013, 128p, $25. The 2013 report examines: 1) key drivers of inequality that have emerged in the recent past; 2) the impact of rising inequality; 3) key trends in social, economic and spatial inequalities; 4) why inequality matters in order to propose policy solutions to this persistent problem; 5) the potential role of empowerment and participation; 6) inequalities within and across countries and their cumulative, mutually reinforcing effects on the systematic lack of participation and disadvantage of some social groups and on the intergenerational transmission of poverty. (INEQUALITY * WORLD ECONOMY)


* Children’s Chances: How Countries Can Move From Surviving to Thriving.  Jody Heymann (Founding Director, Institute for Health and Social Policy, McGill U) with Kristen McNeill.  Cambridge MA: Harvard U Press, Feb 2013, 376p, $45.  We need to address the existing inequalities in children’s opportunities and healthy development—children out of school, laboring, living in poverty. Despite the scale of the problems, massive progress is possible on problems that once seemed unsolvable. For instance, within less than 25 years, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has been cut in half and the number of children under age five that die each day has dropped by over 12,000. The authors call for targeting not children’s survival but their full and healthy development, drawing on never before-available comparative data on laws and public policies in 190 countries.  They show what works and what countries around the world are doing to ensure equal opportunities for all children, and provides a guide for what needs to be done to make equal chances for all children a reality. (CHILDREN * INEQUALITY AND CHILDREN)

* Children’s Chances: How Countries Can Move From Surviving to Thriving.  Jody Heymann (Founding Director, Institute for Health and Social Policy, McGill U) with Kristen McNeill.  Cambridge MA: Harvard U Press, Feb 2013, 376p, $45.  We need to address the existing inequalities in children’s opportunities and healthy development—children out of school, laboring, living in poverty. Despite the scale of the problems, massive progress is possible on problems that once seemed unsolvable. For instance, within less than 25 years, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has been cut in half and the number of children under age five that die each day has dropped by over 12,000. The authors call for targeting not children’s survival but their full and healthy development, drawing on never before-available comparative data on laws and public policies in 190 countries.  They show what works and what countries around the world are doing to ensure equal opportunities for all children, and provides a guide for what needs to be done to make equal chances for all children a reality.  (CHILDREN * INEQUALITY AND CHILDREN)
 
* Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America. Martin Gilens (Prof of Politics, Princeton U).   Princeton NJ: Princeton U Press and NY: Russell Sage Foundation, Aug 2012, 348p, $35. In an ideal democracy, all citizens should have equal influence on government policy—but America’s policymakers respond almost exclusively to the preferences of the economically advantaged.  Political inequality in the United States has evolved over the last several decades, with growing disparity shaped by interest groups, parties, and elections. When preferences of low- or middle-income Americans diverge from those of the affluent, there is virtually no relationship between policy outcomes and the desires of less advantaged groups. In contrast, affluent Americans’ preferences exhibit a substantial relationship with policy outcomes whether their preferences are shared by lower-income groups or not. Under specific circumstances, preferences of the middle class and, to a lesser extent, the poor, seem to matter: impending elections and an even partisan division in Congress boost responsiveness to the preferences of the broader public. (SOCIETY * GOVERNMENT * POLITICAL INEQUALITY * INEQUALITY)

 

 

* Occupy World Street: A Global Roadmap for Radical Economic and Political Reform. Ross Jackson (Chairman Gaia Trust, Copenhagen, Denmark; www.ross-jackson.com).  Foreword by Hazel Henderson (Ethical Markets Media).  White River Junction VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, March 2012, 315p, $19.95pb (www.occupyworldstreet.org). An ambitious and original book by a former currency hedge fund manager, asserting that the current global structure is dysfunctional, undemocratic, and corrupt, while billions of citizens are crying out for change.  Topics include the roots of the current political/economic logjam, the assault on nature, the coming peak in global oil production, the global collapse of civilization due to increased complexity, the evolution of questionable economic beliefs, the neoliberal ideology, the recent financial crisis, and growing inequality that supports the “corporatocracy.”  A shift in values is underway, however, based on a new worldview of Gaian values and ecological economics.  To realize the vision of a sustainable and just future that works for all, eight institutions must be founded by a “Gaian League” of member nations (a trade organization, a clearing union, a development bank, a legislative congress, an administrative commission, a court of justice, a resource board, and a council of wise elders).  A “breakaway strategy” for getting there is also articulated, involving a handful of small nations from the top and the grass roots of the world from the bottom.  [For a long review, see GFB Book of the Month, Sept 2012 and GFB Update newsletter for Sept 2012 for supporting material on “New and Appropriate Economics.”]     (SUSTAINABILITY * WORLD ECONOMY * WORLD GOVERNANCE * GAIAN VALUES * ECONOMICS)

 

* The New Gilded Age: The Critical Inequality Debates of Our Time.  Edited by David B. Grusky (Prof of Sociology and Director, Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, Stanford U) and Tamar Kricheli-Katz (Asst Prof of Sociology, Tel Aviv U).  Palo Alto CA: Stanford U Press, May 2012, 320p, $24.95pb.  Income inequality is an increasingly pressing issue in the US and around the world.  Explores five questions about income, gender, and racial inequality:  1) Do we have a moral obligation to eliminate poverty?  2) Is inequality a necessary evil that is the best available way to motivate economic action and increase economic output?  3) Can we retain a meaningful democracy even when extreme inequality allows the rich to purchase political privileges?  4) Is the recent stalling out of long-term declines in gender inequality a historic reversal that presages a new gender order? 5) How are racial and ethnic inequalities likely to evolve as minority populations grow larger, and as intermarriage increases?  (SOCIETY * INCOME INEQUALITY* INEQUALITY * DEMOCRACY AND INEQUALITY * GENDER INEQUALITY)

* Changing Inequality.  Rebecca M. Blank (Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution; former Dean, School of Public Policy, U of Michigan).  Berkeley: U of California Press, Sept 2011, 225p, $24.95pb.  “Inequality has risen sharply over the last three decades.”  Changes in family composition and family size account for about 15% of the rise in US income inequality; most of the rise is due to increases in wage inequality.  Reversing this rapid increase will be difficult, suggesting that “higher inequality is likely to remain a feature of the economic landscape in the US for many decades to come.”  Four ways to reduce inequality are considered: 1) improving skills (but even with a significant upward shift, the effect on inequality would be small); 2) equalizing changes in wages, labor-force participation, and investment income (but increased earnings do not begin to catch up with the earnings gains of higher-income persons); 3) increasing marriage to reduce poverty and improve long-term prospects for low-income children (but significant changes in family composition will have only small effects); 4) an increased safety net (but antipoverty programs are not likely to substantially reduce overall economic inequality).  Factors likely to continue the current trend to increasing inequality include technological changes that advantage skilled workers, greater competition from the developing world, and a political environment favoring lower taxes and wary of redistribution programs.  Factors that may cause inequality to cease rising or even reverse include a sharp decline in the stock market, lower executive salaries, greater empathy for those facing economic difficulties, and acceptance of somewhat higher tax rates.  (INEQUALITY * POVERTY IN U.S. * ECONOMY)

The New Gilded Age: The Critical Inequality Debates of Our Time.  Edited by David B. Grusky (Prof of Sociology and Director, Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, Stanford U) and Tamar Kricheli-Katz (Asst Prof of Sociology, Tel Aviv U).  Palo Alto CA: Stanford U Press, May 2012 / 320p / $24.95.  Income inequality is an increasingly pressing issue in the US and around the world. Explores five questions about income, gender, and racial inequality: 1) Do we have a moral obligation to eliminate poverty? 2) Is inequality a necessary evil that is the best available way to motivate economic action and increase economic output? 3) Can we retain a meaningful democracy even when extreme inequality allows the rich to purchase political privileges? 4) Is the recent stalling out of long-term declines in gender inequality a historic reversal that presages a new gender order? 5) How are racial and ethnic inequalities likely to evolve as minority populations grow larger, and as intermarriage increases? (DEMOCRACY AND INEQUALITY * INEQUALITY * INCOME INEQUALITY * SOCIETY * GENDER INEQUALITY) 
 
Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps RisingOrganisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Paris: OECD, Dec 2011 / 388p / $73.00.  “In the three decades to the recent economic downturn, wage gaps widened and household income inequality increased in a large majority of OECD countries.” This occurred even when countries were going through a period of sustained economic growth. Analyzes the major underlying forces behind these developments: the extent to which economic globalization, skill-based technological progress, and institutional and regulatory reforms have had an impact on the distribution of earnings. This report also documents how tax and benefit systems have changed in the ways they redistribute household incomes, and discusses which policies are most promising to counter increases in inequalities. (INEQUALITY: OECD OVERVIEW * ECONOMY)
 
Degrees of Inequality: Culture, Class, and Gender in American Higher EducationAnn L. Mullen (Assoc Prof of Sociology, U of Toronto).  Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins U Press, Jan 2011 / 256p / $50.00.  Interviews with 100 students attending Yale University and Southern Connecticut State University highlight how higher education reinforces the same inequalities it has been aiming to transcend. Yale boasts accomplished alumni, including national and world leaders in business and politics. SCSU graduates mostly commuter students seeking credential degrees in fields with good job prospects. (INEQUALITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION * HIGHER EDUCATION)
 
The Atlas of Global Inequalities Ben Crow (Prof of Sociology, U of California, Santa Cruz) and Suresh K. Lodha (Prof of Computer Science, UC, Santa Cruz).  Berkeley CA: U of California Press (produced by Myriad Editions, Brighton UK), Feb 2011 / 128p / $21.95. Organized in nine thematic parts, revealing differences between and within countries with maps, charts, and brief discussion: 1) Economic Inequalities (income, household wealth, consumption, work and unemployment, labor migration to help address global inequalities; 2) Power Inequalities (international trade, budget priorities, government action, measures of freedom and democracy, rates of imprisonment and execution); 3) Social Inequalities (gender, age, class, race/ethnicity, child labor); 4) Inequalities of Access (poverty, hunger, household water and fuel, energy, mobility, the digital divide); 5) Health (life expectancy, maternal and child mortality, access to healthcare, infectious diseases); 6) Education (literacy, barriers to education, early childhood care/education); 7) Environment (climate change impacts, deforestation, air pollution, clean water and sanitation); 8) Towards Equality (on state and international action); 9) Data, Definitions, and Sources. [Also see The Haves and the Have-Nots: A Brief and Idiosyncratic History of Global Inequality by World Bank economist Branko Milanovic (Basic Books, Jan 2011, 258p, $27.95), who notes that 60% of a person’s income is determined by place of birth.] (ATLAS OF INEQUALITIES * INEQUALITY ATLAS * SOCIETY)

Human Development Report 2011: Sustainability and Equity—Challenges for Human DevelopmentUnited Nations Development Programme.  NY: United Nations Publications, Nov 2011 / 180p / $43.00.  Examines the urgent global challenge of sustainable development and its relationship to rising inequality within and among countries, as well as long-term inequality trends at national and global level. Notes that “those who will suffer most from climate change are disproportionately those least responsible for environmental deterioration.” Seeks to identify policies that would make development both more sustainable and more equitable in coming decades. (INEQUALITY RISING * SUSTAINABILITY AND EQUITY * HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT * DEVELOPMENT)

Whither Opportunity? Rising Inequality, Schools, and Children’s Life Chances.  Edited by Greg J. Duncan (Distinguished Prof of Education, U of California, Irvine) and Richard J. Murnane (Prof of Education and Society, Harvard U).  NY: Russell Sage Foundation and Spencer Foundation, Sept 2011 / 528p / $49.95.  Examines the corrosive effects of unequal family resources, disadvantaged neighborhoods, insecure labor markets, and worsening conditions on K-12 education. Rising inequality is undermining the ability of schools to provide children with an equal chance at academic and economic success. From earliest childhood, parental investments in children’s learning affect reading, math, and other attainments later in life. The gap between rich and poor children’s achievement is now larger than it was 50 years ago. Income-based gaps persist across the school years. Rising inequality may now be compromising the functioning of schools and the promise of equal opportunity in America. (POVERTY IN U.S. * CHILDREN AND INEQUALITY * INEQUALITY AND SCHOOLS * EDUCATION)

Rights Gone Wrong: How Law Corrupts the Struggle for EqualityRichard Thompson Ford (Prof of Law, Stanford U).  NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Nov 2011 / 272p / $27.00.  Both the progressive left and the colorblind right are guilty of the same error: defining discrimination too abstractly and condemning it too categorically. Many progressives insist that any policies and practices that disadvantage people on the basis of race, sex, age, or disability should be illegal. Many conservatives insist that the Constitution is colorblind, and the government should thus never take race into account under any circumstances. Both left and right reject reasonable, prudent, and innocent distinctions. Judges and government officials thus concentrate on eliminating even trivial forms of discrimination, at the expense of more effective means of social justice like expanding opportunities for the poor. Ford calls for a more “nuanced” approach to civil rights, and a return to thoughtful and pragmatic judges who distinguish justified from unjustified acts of discrimination, rejecting selfish or perverse claims of rights gone wrong while protecting people from serious indignities. “Like an overprescribed antibiotic that kills beneficial organisms, the civil rights approach to social justice, once a miracle cure, now threatens to do more harm than good.” (DISCRIMINATION AND LAW * INEQUALITY * CIVIL RIGHTS * SOCIETY)

Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s FutureRobert B. Reich (Chancellor’s Prof of Public Policy, U of California-Berkeley).  NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Sept 2010 / 174p / $25.00.  Former US Secretary of Labor argues that the main cause of the Great Recession was not Wall Street, but the structural problem of increasing concentration of income and wealth at the top, and a middle class that is going deeply into debt. The last time when US wealth was so highly concentrated was in 1928, just before the Great Depression. Obama’s success in forestalling economic collapse reduced the urgency of the larger challenge, thus the underlying trend of the past 30 years will continue (where median incomes remain flat or decline), and “we are almost certainly in store for many years of high unemployment.” Proposes a “New Deal for the Middle Class” based on wage supplements, a carbon tax, higher taxes on the rich, a reemployment system rather than unemployment, wage insurance, school vouchers based on family income, college loans linked to subsequent earnings, Medicare for all, and all political contributions going through blind trusts. [Note: A different analysis of the Great Recession, laying the foundation for an extensive (but unlikely) redistribution plan.] (INEQUALITY * NEW DEAL FOR MIDDLE CLASS * ECONOMIC CRISIS)

 
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