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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Explain the arguments for and against government intervention in a market economy
  • Identify beneficial ways to reduce the economic inequality in a society
  • Show the tradeoff between incentives and income equality

No society should expect or desire complete equality of income at a given point in time, for a number of reasons. First, most workers receive relatively low earnings in their first few jobs, higher earnings as they reach middle age, and then lower earnings after retirement. Thus, a society with people of varying ages will have a certain amount of income inequality. Second, people’s preferences and desires differ. Some are willing to work long hours to have income for large houses, fast cars and computers, luxury vacations, and the ability to support children and grandchildren.

These factors all imply that a snapshot of inequality in a given year does not provide an accurate picture of how people’s incomes rise and fall over time. Even if some degree of economic inequality is expected at any point in time, how much inequality should there be? There is also the difference between income and wealth, as the following Clear It Up feature explains.

How do you measure wealth versus income inequality?

Income is a flow of money received, often measured on a monthly or an annual basis; wealth    is the sum of the value of all assets, including money in bank accounts, financial investments, a pension fund, and the value of a home. In calculating wealth all debts must be subtracted, such as debt owed on a home mortgage and on credit cards. A retired person, for example, may have relatively little income in a given year, other than a pension or Social Security. However, if that person has saved and invested over time, the person’s accumulated wealth can be quite substantial.

In the United States, the wealth distribution is more unequal than the income distribution, because differences in income can accumulate over time to make even larger differences in wealth. However, the degree of inequality in the wealth distribution can be measured with the same tools we use to measure the inequality in the income distribution, like quintile measurements. Data on wealth are collected once every three years in the Survey of Consumer Finance.

Even if they cannot answer the question of how much inequality is too much, economists can still play an important role in spelling out policy options and tradeoffs. If a society decides to reduce the level of economic inequality, it has three main sets of tools: redistribution from those with high incomes to those with low incomes; trying to assure that a ladder of opportunity is widely available; and a tax on inheritance.

Redistribution

Redistribution means taking income from those with higher incomes and providing income to those with lower incomes. Earlier in this chapter, we considered some of the key government policies that provide support for the poor: the welfare program TANF, the earned income tax credit, SNAP, and Medicaid. If a reduction in inequality is desired, these programs could receive additional funding.

Questions & Answers

the art of managing the production, distribution and consumption.
Satangthem Reply
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Khawar Reply
okk
damfash
marginal utility is the additional satisfaction one derives from consuming additional unit of a good or service.
Fred
It's the allocation of scarce resources.
Fred
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Dishan
marginal utility is the additional satisfaction one derives from consuming additional unit of a good or service.
Fred
I know the definition, but I don't understand its meaning.
Dishan
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Nurudeen
demand lfs
Alpha
Economics is derived from the word Oikonomia which means management of household things. Thus, Economics is a study of household things with the constrains of allocating scare resources.
Dishan
what is Open Market Operation
Adu Reply
dominating middlemen men activities circumstances
Christy Reply
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Adji Reply
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mirwais
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Dexter
What is diseconomic
Alixe Reply
what are the types of goods
WARIDI
how can price determination be the central problem of micro economics
simon Reply
marginal cost formula
Nandu Reply
you should differentiate the total cost function in order to get marginal cost function then you can get marginal cost from it
boniphace
What about total cost
Foday
ok
Foday
how can price determination be the central problem if micro economics
simon
formula of cross elasticity of demand
Theresia Reply
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Priyanka Reply
what is ceteris parabus
Priyanka
Ceteris paribus - Literally, "other things being equal"; usually used in economics to indicate that all variables except the ones specified are assumed not to change.
Abdullah
What is broker
scor
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scor
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scor
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kafui
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scor
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scor
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amarsyaheed Reply
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Philo
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Frank
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Frank
so
owusu
what is production possibility frontier
owusu
it's a summary of opportunity cost depicted on a curve.
okhiria
please help me solve this question with the aid of appropriate diagrams explain how each of the following changes will affect the market price and quantity of bread 1. A
Manuela Reply
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Prosper Reply
ok let me know some of the questions please.
Effah
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adepojurafiu
Hi guys can I get Adam Smith's WEALTH OF NATIONS fo sale?
Ukpen
hello I'm Babaisa alhaji Mustapha. I'm studying Economics in the university of Maiduguri
Babaisa
okay
Humaira
my name is faisal Yahaya. i studied economics at Kaduna state university before proceeding to West African union university benin republic for masters
Faisal
Hi guys..I am from Bangladesh..
Mannan
Wat d meaning of management
igwe Reply
disaster management cycle
Gogul Reply
cooperate social responsibility
igwe
Fedric Wilson Taylor also define management as the act of knowing what to do and seeing that it is done in the best and cheapest way
OLANIYI

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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