Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Digital Divide and the Growing Gap between the Rich and the Poor

"The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
From a blog on GovLoop:

Had a great Xmas discussion tonight with my mother, who is of a generation that remembers better times, when the gap was not quite so wide, when Americans truly had the Gov 2.0 "Do It Ourselves" mentality, rather than the "I'm in it for myself" attitude we see so often today.

She asked, and I too would like to know, if there is data available that shows the growing gap trends over time from the Roosevelt era until now. Digital Divide data, perhaps not, but census data definitely.

I would also like to see a "Bridge the Wealth Gap" strategy developed, complementary to the recent digital divide strategies that are starting to emerge.

Knowing little to nothing about tax laws, estate laws, and other laws that would help that gap to shrink, I don't feel qualified to comment, but suspect that there are others out there who could analyze and strategize more effectively leveraging digital divide/economic gap trend data.

I would also like to see some case studies, "a day in the life" of citizens at either end of the spectrum: how they live, how they cope, and what resources they have available to them today, both for the digital divide strategists as well as the economic gap strategists.

Here is the sort of information I'd like to see charted over time:

The income gap between the richest and poorest Americans grew last year to its widest amount on record as young adults and children in particular struggled to stay afloat in the recession.

The top-earning 20% of Americans — those making more than $100,000 each year — received 49.4% of all income generated in the U.S., compared with the 3.4% earned by those below the poverty line, according to newly released Census figures. That ratio of 14.5-to-1 was an increase from 13.6 in 2008 and nearly double a low of 7.69 in 1968.

CENSUS: Recession affects all aspects of American life
POVERTY: People in poverty is highest in 51 years
LIVING TOGETHER: Numbers jump 13%, linked to job losses

A different measure, the international Gini index, found U.S. income inequality at its highest level since the Census Bureau began tracking household income in 1967. The U.S. also has the greatest disparity among Western industrialized nations.

At the top, the wealthiest 5% of Americans, who earn more than $180,000, added slightly to their annual incomes last year, Census data show.

Median household income was $49,777 in 2009, down 0.7% from a year earlier, a change that was not statistically different from 2008, the agency said.

"Income inequality is rising, and if we took into account tax data, it would be even more," said Timothy Smeeding, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who specializes in poverty. "More than other countries, we have a very unequal income distribution where compensation goes to the top in a winner-takes-all economy."

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