<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
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

who is called lender of the last resort
Divyanshu Reply
Hi
Linda
hlw
Karishma
Central bank
Majeed
hy
Karishma
Hello
Majeed
hy
Karishma
How are you
Majeed
Am gud
Linda
fine
Karishma
Am gud
Linda
hello
Chandra
Well! what's going on
Majeed
r u study in economics
Karishma
anybody there?
Chandra
r u study in economics
Karishma
the central bank
Sessay
Has completed already
Majeed
hey
neha
yes
Abigail
Yesss
Majeed
ok
Karishma
hey
Doctor
yh
Abigail
more questions
Sessay
how ar you
Doctor
split the price effect into income effect and substitution effect
Karishma
fine and u
Abigail
Hi
Godwin
hi
Hey, I am new here. Hope, discussion on Economics will clear our concepts more.
yasir
yes
Abigail
do u speak hindi or english
Karishma
how to consumer equlibrium through ic
Karishma
consumer equilibrium demand equals supply
Kenneth
the consumer is in equilibrium when the indifference curve is tangential to the budget line. or when the BL and IC intersect
Sessay
reasons indifference curve slopes downwards?
Kenneth
fine Abby any good,
Doctor
ur lost
Doctor
hey. im new year. economics teacher how we can discuss some thing interesting.
EDWINY
which one
Doctor
what do u understand the concept of poverty cycle.
EDWINY
what's the topic
Adamsvictor Reply
economic systems
gracious
hello
Antonio
market
aba
hello where can I find the diagrams
Manu
Hello I am totally out ,I am not understanding why we are here. can someone help me out?
Amara
why Economic is not a pure science can someone help me out
Mohamed
because economics like science put forth a some hypotheses and then do experiments to prove them
Anwesh
but these experiments are not completely controlled
Anwesh
Hello
Comfort
hey
suraj
hi people can you help me out on "demand and supply"
Milton
Am not understanding can someone enlighten me pls
Bertilla
hi people can you help me out on "demand and supply"
Sessay
hello. if Mr.Patrick's income is #900.00 while that of Mr.Shodawe is #1300.00 if Mr.Patrick and Shodowe pay #90.00 and #130.00 as taxes,the tax system is?
Benjamin
I need the answer please
Benjamin
regressive tax system
shaikh
OK thanks
Benjamin
Isn't this called proportional tax rate because the rate stays the same - 10%? Tell me if I'm wrong
Ioan
Supply is perfectly elastic and demand increases.
kishore Reply
whose there
Waseem
show the demand curve
Hameed Reply
it slopes downward from left to right
Ama
how resources are allocated in a free economy
Charlotte Reply
explain how discriminating Monopoly increase profits
Charlotte
factors responsible for the emergence of monopoly situation
adelakun Reply
total output produced by a country over a given period of time .... can someone give me the term plz
TMM Reply
GDP
Anjorin
thaks man
TMM
Woman. 👍👍
Anjorin
gross domestic products
janet
GDP
Bertilla
GDP
Prof
GDP
Bertilla
gross domestic product
gross domestic product
GDp
Mohamed
gdp
agboola
what is recession pertaining to GDP
Prince
what is recession pertaining to GDP
Prince
what is recession
Prince
What is long run supply curve of a industry
Rashika Reply
enlightened
Ernest
all on board am here
Ernest Reply
am late I missed alot
Ernest
A mixed economy is the best type of an economy.Discuss
Tawanda Reply
Agreed Mixed economics is d combination of both capitalist and socialist economy, it give room for both individual and government to make decisions whereby giving room to a rapid development of d economy.
Anjorin
?
Andres
agreed
Ernest
Explain more about the Macroeconomics
Lizzy Reply
what is macroeconomic
Ekye
macro economics has to do with the of study economics at national level i.e the study of national economy as a whole. While micro is concerned with the study at individual, group or company level.
Andres
Andres explain
Ernest
ok
Ernest
scale and preference
Okodili Reply
please enlighten me
ANDREW
Please explain to me what ma economics
Lizzy
ok
Ernest
Views of classical economics with their modern economics
Mr Reply
sir bride me
Ernest
enlightenment
Ernest
what are the characteristic of economic laws
Eazy Reply
find out
Ernest
similarities of a command and a mixed economy
Talent Reply
seen
Ernest

Get the best Principles of economics course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Principles of economics' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask