Poor Americans

The incomes and wealth of the richest Americans have grown astoundingly this century. Meantime, the poorest Americans have remained so.

Poverty despite working has been a constant fate for the poorest 20% of Americans since industrialization. The share of national income for the lowest 1/5th of Americans barely budged during the post-WW2 era of 1947 to 1967: going from 5.1% to 5.4%. Since then that rate has declined. In 2018, the 20% of Americans with the worst wages earned only 3% of national income.

Education has been one factor. American public schools have degraded for decades. The learning gap between the lowest income students and highest has remained constant for over a half century. Poor students are 3–4 years behind wealthy ones.

The inequity of inequality is the American way.

For a full portrayal of economics, read The Fruits of Civilization.


Maria Temming, “50 years ago, income inequality was severe in the U.S. It still is,” Science News (6 December 2019).

Sujata Gupta, “The learning gap between rich and poor students hasn’t changed in decades,” Science News (19 March 2019).