The Downside of Income Inequality
Income inequality is one of the most inconceivable controversies for people. There are many facts and research studies scattered amongst the topic and many people find themselves to be overwhelmed. Income inequality is a growing issue in America, but to much surprise most Americans are not aware of the problems income inequality entails. In fact, in 2013 only “47% of Americans [thought] the rich-poor gap [was] a very big problem” (Pew’s Research Center 6). Author’s of The Upside of Income Inequality, Becker and Murphy are part of the 53% who believe that income inequality is not a problem for America, but in fact has positive attributes. They heavily emphasize the correlation of growth of college education and increasing wage gap. By highlighting college education, Becker and Murphy neglect the intense problems of society that come with the income gap.
The article begins by praising the income inequality in China, and how in China the income wage gap has shown benefits. Authors Becker and Murphy state that “in the case of China and India, the rise in inequality came along with an acceleration of economic growth that raised the standard of living for both the rich and the poor” (Becker and Murphy 582). They extend this idea to “the labor market [places] a greater emphasis on education, dispensing rapidly rising rewards to those who stay in school” (Becker and Murphy 583). The authors continue this thought, connecting it to the wage gap, advocating that “as the education earnings gap increased, a larger fraction of high school graduates went on to college” (Becker and Murphy 583).
By focusing on the rise of women receiving a college education due to the income inequality gap, Becker and Murphy overlook the deeper problem of the pay gap that women receive. They praise that in 2004 women “outnumbered men as students in degree-granting institutions of higher education by 33 percent” (Becker and Murphy 585). Women are encouraged to strive to their full potential in education, but they remain getting paid less than men. This in turn hurts women’s psyche, when they are taught to work hard and get an education to qualify for a higher pay, but soon fall short to the man’s dollar. When women are encouraged to pursue a college education, but as soon as they’re immersed in the job market women are faced with discouragement due to their gender. In the United States, women are paid 79 cents for every white man’s dollar. Note that this fact only regards to White women, Black women earn 60 cents to every white man’s dollar, and Hispanic women earn 55 cents to every white man’s dollar. This outcome from income inequality is wrong in many aspects. It discourages women from receiving equal treatment as well as reinforcing gender roles that many people are trying to steer away from. Unequal pay for women strongly derives from maternity leave, which reinforces the idea that it is the woman who is suppose to stay home and care for the baby, and the idea of a paternity leave is rarely thought about to a job interviewer when interviewing a man. So although the number of women who enroll in college has risen, it has taken a deeper toll on their hope to succeed in the work force.
Becker and Murphy contradict themselves. On one hand, they argue how income inequality positively affects women in the sense that they are more prone to go get a college degree. On the other hand, Becker and Murphy claim the reason why some Americans do not get a college education is due to “the breakdown of the American family” and how people “from broken households” are more prone to not follow the college path (Becker and Murphy 587). In 2013, 66% of black children were raised in a divorced household, 53% American Indian children were raised in a divorced household, and 42% of Latino or Hispanic children were raised in a divorced household. With this being established, people of color are at a big disadvantage and in turn, are greatly affected by the income inequality gap because they have a setback of being able to get a college degree. It has always been heavily integrated in people’s brains at a young age that doing well in school and graduating college with an adequate degree is highly looked upon. This is a very stereotypical way of life, and usually people who decide to trail off from this set notion, are questioned, belittled, and doubted. Becker and Murphy champion that education is a key factor to be successful and because of this notion that children raised in a broken home and more prone to drop out rather than those raised in a traditional home, black families on average have a net worth of 95,261 dollars whereas white families have an average net worth of 678,737 dollars. White families hold 7 times more wealth than black families, this number is due to the widening wealth gap, 20 years ago white families held 4.6 times more wealth than black families and over the years it has shown to increase immensely.
The fact that race and gender are primary reasons as to why income inequality exists shows just how unacceptable income inequality is for a society. Society needs to move away from the wage gap like this in order to make progress. The reduction in income inequality will not single handedly end heavy topics like gender discrimination and racism. But there is correlation showing that gender discrimination and racism are directly related to the wage gap, so implementing a system where it reduces the income inequality gap, will reduce racism and gender discrimination.