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Wealth, Income, and Power

American wealth distribution 2011Wealth, Income, and Power

by G. William Domhoff
September 2005 (updated July 2011)

This document presents details on the wealth and income distributions in the United States, and explains how we use these two distributions as power indicators.

Some of the information may come as a surprise to many people. In fact, I know it will be a surprise and then some, because of a recent study (Norton & Ariely, 2010) showing that most Americans (high income or low income, female or male, young or old, Republican or Democrat) have no idea just how concentrated the wealth distribution actually is. More on that a bit later.

As far as the income distribution, the most amazing numbers on income inequality will come last, showing the dramatic change in the ratio of the average CEO’s paycheck to that of the average factory worker over the past 40 years.

 

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Francis Quarles

Francis Quarles (1592-1644)

Francis Quarles (1592-1644)

If thou desired to purchase honor with thy wealth, consider First how that wealth became put thine; if thy labor got it, let thy wisdom keep it; if oppression found it, let repentance restore it; if thy parents left it, let thy virtues deserve it; so shall thy honor be safer, better, and cheaper.

Frances Wayland

Frances Wayland (1796-1865)

Frances Wayland (1796-1865)

Wealth is not acquired, as many persons suppose, by fortunate speculations and splendid enterprises, but by the daily practice of industry, frugality, and economy.  He who relies upon these means will rarely be found destitute, and he who relies upon any other, will generally become bankrupt. 

Franklin, Benjamin

Franklin, Benjamin

Franklin, Benjamin

"There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth: the first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbors – this is robery; the second by commerce, which is generally cheating; the third by agriculture, the only honest way, wherein a man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in hid favor, as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry."