The Impact of Income Inequality

The Impact of Income Inequality

As it turns out, income inequality can be an issue for all society, not just the poor.

A new study of high-earning clients of a bank’s wealth management unit tracked the fortunes of male and female young adults to learn how income inequity would impact their lives. The assumptions had both genders starting out in the job market earning a salary of at least $100,000 and in possession of an inheritance of $1 million.1 The following are some of the study’s findings:2

  • A 25-year-old woman living in a wealthy country earns 10 percent less, on average, than a man the same age.
  • By age 85, the income gap will result in the woman having 38 percent less wealth than the man.
  • The gap will widen if the woman takes a year off from work or decides to work part time for a while.
  • The problem is exacerbated by the fact that women are expected to live longer and must stretch their wealth over a longer

Retirement planning is challenging enough without the issue of lower wages throughout one’s career. Lower earnings mean fewer opportunities to save and invest, in addition to a reduced standard of living. Whether married, divorced or single, we help clients create retirement strategies through the use of insurance products that help them work toward their long-term retirement income goals. Give us a call to learn more.

Interestingly, the U.S. women’s labor force participation peaked in 2000. At the time, this had a big impact on household income and broader economic growth. Since then, as prime-age women have dropped out of the workforce, the national growth rate has suffered.3

Over the past two years, real median household income in the U.S. has increased by 3.2 percent, but this follows 17 years of stops and starts. Even today’s positive numbers can be deceptive, because they do not reflect areas of the country that are still struggling. For example, an analysis of data from the 2000 Census and the 2016 American Community Survey found that 86 urban areas — including Miami, Orlando, Phoenix, Tucson, Chicago, Indianapolis and Milwaukee — suffered declines in median income between 10 and 15 percent from 1999 to 2016. Many of these areas lost a large number of middle-income manufacturing jobs during the 2000s that have not been replaced.4

A new large-scale study found poverty-level household income can have a significant impact on children’s development, ranging from cognitive and educational outcomes to social development and physical health. The study included data from past research that found that when low-income families do receive an influx of cash, this money is usually spent on fruit, vegetables, books, clothes and toys.5

Aligned with this type of insight, some countries are looking at ways to solve some of their largest societal issues through a basic income. This year, as part of a two-year, limited trial involving 2,000 unemployed citizens, Finland became the first European country to provide a “no-strings-attached” monthly payment to cover essential costs of living. The basic income (about $587 a month) replaces any other current unemployment benefits and will continue even if recipients get a job. Cities in the Netherlands and Canada have scheduled similar pilot programs.6

In the U.S., test programs have found that giving homes to the homeless is the cheapest way to reduce homelessness, and paying high-risk people not to be involved in gun violence has been remarkably effective at reducing a city’s murder rate.7

Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.

1 Reuters. Oct. 23, 2017. “Pay gap to affect high-earning women’s retirement lifestyle: study.” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-global-women-pay-gap/pay-gap-to-affect-high-earning-womens-retirement-lifestyle-study-idUSKBN1CS0Z7. Accessed Nov. 28, 2017.

2 Ibid.

3 Jay Shambaugh, Ryan Nunn and Becca Portman. Brookings. Nov. 1, 2017. “Lessons from the rise of women’s labor force participation in Japan.” https://www.brookings.edu/research/lessons-from-the-rise-of-womens-labor-force-participation-in-japan/. Accessed Nov. 28, 2017.

4 Alan Berube. Brookings. Oct. 12, 2017. “Five maps show progress made, but mostly lost, on middle-class incomes in America.” https://www.brookings.edu/research/five-maps-show-progress-made-but-mostly-lost-on-middle-class-incomes-in-america/. Accessed Nov. 28, 2017.

5 The London School of Economics and Political Science. Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE). “Does Money Affect Children’s Outcomes? An update. http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/case/_new/research/money_matters/report.asp. Accessed Dec. 7, 2017.

6 Drake Baer. New York magazine. Jan. 4, 2017. “What Happens When You Give Free Money to Poor People.” https://www.thecut.com/2017/01/the-psychology-of-basic-income.html. Accessed Nov. 28, 2017.

7 Ibid.

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