In many parts of the world, some people get treated differently from others due to various reasons. Some of those reasons are related to economic inequalities in society. While people from certain social classes have particular benefits, such as higher household income, people from other classes often struggle to afford the basics in life (LN Class). With that being said, there is a need to assess economic inequalities in the modern US and determine what needs to change to promote equality among the population.
First, one should examine how economically unequal US society is today. A way of doing so is by reviewing films such as Inequality for All, which is a documentary that discusses economic fairness and income inequality in the US (Inequality for All). The movie is narrated by economist Robert Reich who states that the US has “the most unequal distribution of income” out of developed countries (Inequality for All 00:05:30-00:05:34). Reich also claims that 400 rich people in the nation account for more wealth than the bottom 150 million citizens (Inequality for All). Furthermore, the gap is expanding with the spread of Covid-19.
While companies such as Amazon and Walmart increased their profits during the pandemic, their owners and shareholders became wealthier, but the lives of the employees did not seem to change (Kinder and Stateler 1). With the frontline workers risking their lives and still struggling financially, the income gap is only getting wider (Kinder and Stateler 5). Today, US society is highly economically unequal compared to other countries.
Next, the film Inequality for All also provides information on how inequality has changed over time in the US. The movie suggests comparing the earnings of people at the top with those of a typical middle worker and shows that the gap between the two has significantly increased since 1978 (Inequality for All). Moreover, the mentioned above claim of a few hundred people having more wealth than several millions of people has a resemblance to the past. A similar situation occurred in 1928 and is similar to modern times in terms of the crisis in the financial sector, speculative bubbles, and bursting debt bubbles of the middle class (Inequality for All).
Therefore, income inequality was at a high level at the beginning of the XX century, significantly lowered at some points after, and increased again at the beginning of the XXI century (Inequality for All). Inequality has been changing for years, but in 1928, the gap between rich people and the rest of the population was extremely wide, and a similar situation is happening again these days.
Furthermore, there were some changes in between the mentioned above years. After the Second World War, the US economy was strong enough to provide assistance to other countries and support its own people (LN Postwar Era). However, by the 1970s, as other countries became less dependent, America started experiencing hardships again (LN Postwar Era). At that time, companies tried to keep operating successfully by finding ways of reducing production costs (LN Postwar Era).
An example of such a way is presented in another documentary called The Global Assembly Line. Released in 1986, the film compares economic situations in the US, Philippines, and Mexico and then explains that several companies used to offshore some job positions as they could pay less to workers abroad (“Global Assembly Line” 00:01:34-00:03:22). However, while those companies motivated such a decision by saying that people in the US would not agree to work under certain conditions, Americans complained that it was not fair to take away their jobs (“Global Assembly Line” 00:03:22-00:03:45). Although after WWII the US economy was strong, towards the end of the XX century, inequalities grew wider due to the corporate world.
Following that, there are certain factors that restrain people from changing their position in the system. One of the limits to social mobility is discussed in Inequality for All. The film suggests that globalization and technology negatively affected mobility upward, as they had reduced salaries (Inequality for All). Despite that, some people kept striving to achieve the American dream and kept working hard, thus tolerating income inequality and promoting it across generations (Inequality for All).
As a result, people in the US now have fewer opportunities for social mobility than in Western Nations (Inequality for All). Furthermore, certain class positions can shape worldviews and affect economic and educational resources impacting children’s chances of social mobility into another class (Lareau 450). Another important factor is related to racial inequalities and can affect further generations. Even these days, Black families often live among the poor and less educated compared to White families, so Black children have fewer opportunities for upward mobility (Putnam 21). Factors that limit social mobility are related to one’s background that can impact future generations.
Furthermore, with the mentioning of changing classes, there is a need to discuss the significance of stratification. Stratification is important as it affects people’s experiences and opportunities, with some classes having more access to certain benefits in life (LN Stratification). Those benefits include better nutrition, medical care, and education, as well as political influence and protection from crime (LN Stratification). As stratification refers to different social layers, each of those layers has a certain meaning to society in general (LN Stratification).
For example, as stated in Inequality for All, out of all the classes, the middle class is the one that “keeps the economy going” and should be strong and continuously growing (00:10:23-00:10:25). On the other hand, Reich states that one of the problems of the economy is that rich people do not spend enough money, and so they do not “generate enough economic activity” (Inequality for All 00:17:12-00:17:22). Overall, stratification is important as it defines the opportunities of each class and can affect various aspects of life.
To conclude, economic inequalities are currently spread across the US. Those inequalities can be represented by the gap between the number of rich and poor people, with the former increasing their profits even during the pandemic and the latter struggling financially. Moreover, a similar gap has happened before in the previous century due to similar reasons, such as crisis. Although between these two periods, the economy was strong at some point and with fewer inequalities, there are more financial disparities in the nation these days.
Furthermore, inequalities are related to social mobility, and growing up in a certain class can impact one’s opportunities for upward mobility due to family experiences and background. However, each class matters and should be paid more attention to, even though some classes affect the economy more. Overall, there is a need to promote economic equality in the country, with some of the ways being less tolerance towards racial discrimination and more opportunities for children from social minorities.
“Global Assembly Line.” YouTube, uploaded by GROUP Humanities Studio, 2017. Web.
Inequality for All. Directed by Jacob Kornbluth, performance by Robert Reich, RADiUS-TWC, 2013.
Kinder, Molly, and Laura Stateler. “Amazon and Walmart Have Raked in Billions in Additional Profits During the Pandemic, and Shared Almost None of it with Their Workers.” Brookings. 2020. Web.
Lareau, Annette. “Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life.” Inequality in the 21st Century, edited by David Grusky and Jasmine Hill, 2018, pp. 444-451.
Putnam, Robert. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. Simon & Schuster, 2016.