An Overview of Income Inequality in the United States

Essay by d1sturbedoneCollege, UndergraduateA, May 2010

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A Brief Overview

Of Income Inequality

In the United States

I. Introduction

Income distribution has been critical issue in American society; more and more reports show that the inequality of income has dramatically increased in the last few decades, while the United States' Western European Counterparts are reportedly equal in terms of income distribution.1 When comparing the United States to European countries, America lags behind in terms of income inequality; Western Europe in the early 20th century have developed their own comprehensive programs designed to tackle income inequality in the form of welfare and social security.2 Another comparison that one would make is that the United States' welfare and social security programs are lacking development, hastily derived, and dependant on various entities of authority.3 However, many factors such as attainment of education, race, gender, living status and even the federal government's economic policies play an important role in this issue.

II. The History behind Income Inequality

For a few people, history surrounding income inequality in the United States dates back to when Queen Elizabeth was in power in England.4 Queen Elizabeth initialized what was known as the Poor Law in 1601.5 When this law was passed, every town or parish in the area was responsible for the needy.6 The law established three categories for those in need:

Those who were unable to work due to sickness or age,

People who were unable to find jobs,

Those who can work but were reluctant to find a job.7

When the American Colonies came to exist, the governments there took a similar approach to helping out the needy and unfortunate.8

However, beginning in the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution began to accelerate the trend of poverty and income inequality; fast increasing populations, accelerating urbanization lead to a increasing poor population.9 Nonetheless, the same...