Wealth Inequality, The Wealth Gap in America, and Discrimination

Wealth Gap in America Part 2

I’ve argued that inequality is the natural state of human affairs, that persons may want to combat it, but that this should be done in ways that do not infringe on the freedom and agency of others. I specifically talked about focusing on creating self-sufficiency rather than rewarding people with the end products of material wealth. However, I also wanted to delve into the current data that tells us we live in an unequal society, to focus on how data is used to play into people’s perception of the world they live in as being unfair. I think people should be skeptical of what they are constantly being told, understanding that politicians and the media like to tell people what they want to hear and present the world in a way which is unjust in order to propose solutions to our problems that they can solve. I think people need to understand that this is their job because their livelihood depends on the public’s positive perception of them. A politician’s job is to tell you what you want to hear, even if they are coming from a place of good intention or are ignorant of more information. I want to bring this up not only to question what we hear but to point out that those who are trying to help others, in truth or deceit, may be ignoring the effects of constantly pushing this information, and ignoring other avenues of helping others.

Before I continue, I am neither a statistician nor an economist but I do understand certain concepts.

1. Your Approach to Data on Wealth Inequality Matters

First of all, data is like a woman getting hit on. The same data can give you a different answer depending on which way you approach it. The research shouldn’t be presented without holding for all relevant variables constant, specifically those which are known to influence the outcome that is being looked at. For example, the data may not even be collected for. When talking about income, showing that groups with the same education level earn different amounts on average, is near meaningless. Not all education is the same, whether in quality or degree of relevant specialization to the job earned. It is hard to find data that does hold other variables constant when describing these things. I would thing that this data is difficult to collect in the first place, so we should be wary that the data is not giving you the whole picture. Groups can be talked about in terms of black and white, but what happens when they are broken down further into groups like African immigrants vs native black Americans, or Americans with eastern European heritage vs western European heritage, or Italian Americans vs Irish Americans? You’re going to get a different message. Certain people within highly successful groups may not be doing very well but persons pay no attention to them because their larger umbrella group is doing well. And conversely, persons may receive preferential treatment when they belong to a sub-group that is doing very well, even though the larger umbrella group is not. Moving away from race relations, when talking about classes, these are mostly transient groups in real life, although the statistical category does not change when analyzing data over time. So when people talk about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, they are not necessarily the same persons over decades or generations. There’s a proportion within the ‘rich’ that is inherited wealth, but that has been steadily on the decline.

Using income to describe poverty or riches can be misleading because a persons income may vary drastically from year to year depending on seasonality of profits due to the industry or cumulative earnings such as capital gains. Another thing is that higher income does not necessarily mean better ability to buy more things, depending on a person’s dependents, more financial burdens, location dependent living expenses, college or medical expenses, for example. So people screaming about the one percent (1%) may be screaming at people who do not have much left over or who they are going to be later on in life. When one group is being compared against the other, the age distribution within the group may differ, and age is positively correlated with income. When talking about household income, more people may be working in one household and not another. There are probably many more examples but these are things I’ve learned about. I don’t know how many other people are aware of them. But for a country so focused on pitting groups against each other, and using data to prove it, the whole country should know that they would need to be very competent in understanding data in order to glean a narrative from it.

2. The Data on Inequality Does Not Support the Narrative of White Supremacy

Second of all, the data supporting the current narrative is tenuous at best. Currently, the standard trope on TV is that we live in a world of white supremacy, or some variation of that. This is generally backed up by data on how other groups, especially blacks, as a whole, earn less income than whites. And that the lack of historical legal power through slavery, or preferential job offerings or community building can explain current trends. And if that can’t explain it, then individual racism is the cause. This ignores the fact that Asians and Jews earn more median income. (I apologize for having to describe people in groups in order to respond to mainstream narratives). Right now, anytime I see data on blacks and whites, I think other groups should be used as well. Both Asians and Jews have succeeded in the U.S. economically, despite historical discrimination and experience of white supremacy against both in the US, both through the state and individual prejudice and bias. Following the same logic, that blacks earning less than whites is evidence for their being systemic discrimination, that would mean that whites as a whole, earning less than Asians as a whole, are experiencing discrimination by Asian or Jewish supremacy. So, the same data that is used to define oppression between blacks and whites in the US, is not important when talking about other groups?

One counterargument could be that the causal agent for why one groups success does not have to be the same for another groups success. But when it is the same issue, that being discrimination, that was actually experienced by the groups that are now doing well, it simply negates the argument for discrimination being the cause of inequality. From what I see, the data shows that groups can and have succeeded in spite of discrimination; therefore, discrimination does not automatically mean being at the lower end of income earners. Wouldn’t that prompt our society to say, “Maybe there is something else going on?” It doesn’t have to be one thing, it could be a combination of things.

Another counterargument could be that the discrimination was not as bad. Like, what can compare to slavery, right? Well, apart from the difficulty and/or disrespect in quantitatively defining human emotions such as suffering, slaves are slaves. The only people who were slaves were slaves. No one after slavery ended was a slave. Then there is the issue that other groups may have been treated just as badly as slaves, without bearing the title. Examples are the Irish. I understand that this country has a history of racism but if you actually want to know the reason behind why something happens, it involves asking why and leaving no stone unturned to find that answer, not simply having a pre-made answer in ones head, especially after the conditions in the past which made that answer acceptable, have changed, that being legally encoded and enforced discrimination. Everything is researched from this conclusion, working backwards, rather than forward as in what is the cause of this? And one can look at other countries and nations, perhaps, and not just focus on the US and everything that’s happened in in the US. The US is not the only country to have experienced racial tensions. What can be changed, knowing that other countries had a history of violence against groups, mostly not across color lines after all? And for every group that later comes in, they are being added to this history, even though where they came from, they may not have had that influence, whether being in the ‘oppressor’ role or the ‘oppressed’ role. But INSTANTLY when they come here, the suddenly take on this persona, which is very … strange.  I think the conclusion should be reconsidered. I did try and find papers on this and the majority of them are not even looking into other variables that influence the outcome..

I know this because of reading Thomas Sowell, who is an incredible source. And I do have some of my own sources that show some questionable things, such as that the type of degrees that black Americans tend to earn are not ones that are in highly specialized areas or areas that are in demand. And I know people are going to say, ‘oh it’s not their fault’. Well at some point it has to be somebody’s fault. At some point the person has to take it on for themselves, regardless of outside influence.

I couldn’t find much data on controlling for other variables except from Sowell. I think it is interesting that there isn’t much data on this, as persons should be taking these counter arguments seriously. There is data on Asian incomes, East and not; and I think this is becoming well known. I also couldn’t find much easily available data on persons of Jewish heritage, again outside of Sowell. And it’s interesting that Jews are now considered whites, knowing that they have been a long persecuted group including in America.

3. There Are Other Answers to Solving the Wealth Gap than Discrimination

Third of all, even if there is a statistical difference in outcomes such as earnings etc, we cannot presume that because that it is due to discrimination or racism. It could be due to characteristics within the group itself, as simple as a persons DESIRE to do something different. It could be due to culture, separate from race and associations with culture. Data on inequality can be explained for by other things such as IQ, or family structure, though maybe not as a whole. And the data is out there. Why isn’t this given as much attention? People can be afraid that it is to put the responsibility on the “victims”. Well, how else will things change? This is really interesting to me as a question. Whether or not influence is internal or external, how will things change? Think about this. If it external, why focus on changing other people? Why not focus on something that you can change, that does not need to involve controlling others, especially knowing that the presence of discrimination does not means that groups cannot do well?

Economic prosperity often comes before the lessening of discrimination, not the other way around.   It also often has the opposite correlation, where you are discriminated against because you are doing well. Striking examples that I don’t hear mentioned often but will never forget are Indians in Uganda and Chinese in Malaysia, historically.

And I know that even then the blame would still be outsourced to others. Even if someone did something to you, it is you who decides how to respond. I’ve got to tell you that as a teenager my mother used to annoy me sometimes, and my father would say, “You can’t control her Desi-Rae. You have to learn to control your own emotions. It is up to you how you want to respond”. Whether or not that was the best response, it is a true statement. You can’t control other people. You can forever treat persons as a puppet being pulled around on a string, but that leaves it up to everyone else to change their behavior rather than the group. How is this going to work out? How is this not treating them as a child with no agency of their own?

Fourth of all, it allows people to ignore what is going on in front of their REAL eyes in their REAL lives not on the TV. But I’m going to stop here for today. Read more in Part 3.

 

This post is continued here: Inequality Series Part 3

The first part of this series is here: Is Inequality a Problem to Be Solved?

A video and podcast version are available.

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Sources:

SUCCESS OF SUBGROUPS OR OTHER MINORITIES
https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2015-10-13/it-isn-t-just-asian-immigrants-who-excel-in-the-u-s-
http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/04/09/a-rising-share-of-the-u-s-black-population-is-foreign-born/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_the_United_States_by_household_income
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups_in_the_United_States_by_per_capita_income
“Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America (New York: The Penguin Press, 2014), p. 42. west indians
“Secret Weapon,” (https://www.amazon.com/Triple-Package-Unlikely-Explain-Cultural/dp/0143126350)
The Economist, June 20, 2015, “Special Report: Nigeria,” p. 8” nigerian immigrants (http://www.economist.com/sites/default/files/20150620_sr_nigeria.pdf)
Excerpts From: Thomas Sowell. “Wealth, Poverty and Politics.”
http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2011/05/15/magazine/15-Leonhardt.html? (Graphing Religions and Income)

CORRELATION BETWEEN FAMILY STRUCTURE AND INCOME
https://scholar.harvard.edu/percheski/publications/family-structure-and-reproduction-inequalities
http://houseofdebt.org/2014/04/10/family-structure-and-inequality.html
http://www.fathers.com/statistics-and-research/the-extent-of-fatherlessness/

IQ AND INCOME
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289607000219 (Intelligence and socioeconomic success: A meta-analytic review of longitudinal research, Strenze)
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289607000219 (Do you have to be smart to be rich?)
https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2008/02/06/correlations-of-iq-with-income-and-wealth/ (Article Citing Above Study)
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289615000148 (Differences in cognitive ability, per capita income, infant mortality, fertility and latitude across the states of India, Lynn, Yadav)

EARNING POTENTIAL DUE TO FIELD OF MAJOR CHOICE DIFFERING BY RACE
https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/AfricanAmericanMajors_2016_web.pdf
https://trends.collegeboard.org/education-pays/figures-tables/students-stem-fields-gender-and-race-ethnicity
http://theop.princeton.edu/reports/wp/ANNALS_Dickson_Manuscript%20(Feb%2009).pdf (Race and Gender Differences in College Major Choice, Dickson)
http://public.econ.duke.edu/~psarcidi/arcidimetrics.pdf (Ability Sorting and the Returns to College Major, Arcidiacono)