The income and wealth gap (also here for information about wealth) in America has grown in recent decades. But rather than simply decry this trend, a sociologist suggests that we should ask some questions:
When it comes to division of wealth, the topic is best tackled by asking questions rather than making statements, according to Mike Dalecki, a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
“How big a gap should there be?” he said, of the wealth divide in the U.S.
“At what point does that gap become so great that we start to have serious societal problems?” Dalecki asked…
How much money do people need to make per year to be satisfied?
If the nation’s wealth divide continues to expand, is there a failure in the economy itself or the ways the rules are written?
Should the wealthiest people pay more taxes?
At what point will they be taxed so much they leave for a different state or country?
These are some good questions because they address larger issues: how do these figures relate to American values and policies? What is an appropriate gap in wealth and how far should we go through measures like taxes to try to limit this gap? These questions link the wealth gap to larger structural and cultural concerns that should interest many Americans. These are the kind of questions I like to ask my Introduction to Sociology courses because they then have to think about how this issue of inequality relates to their thoughts about a “good” or “just” society.
I also think the emphasis here on wealth, instead of just income, is helpful. Income gives you part of the picture but wealth is more accurate measure of the resources people accumulate over time and then can pass on to their descendents. This wealth gap is particularly stark between racial and ethnic groups.