Michelle Sicignano, LMSW

Michelle Sicignano, LMSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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Wealth Inequality, a Poverty Mindset and Long Term Consequences

Most people in the United States stay within one economic class of that which they were born into. It is the rare person who advances further, and given the increasingly fast growing divide between the wealthy and the poor the downward trend for the middle class and widening divide seems likely to continue.

Wealth Income in America”  is a YouTube video gone viral which discusses America’s misperception about the distribution of wealth  using clear graphic that are nothing short of astonishing; It’s an urgent wake-up call for America that vividly highlights how skewed the average persons idea of economic disparity between the classes is in actuality.

[embed_youtube id=’QPKKQnijnsM’ width=’420′ height=’345′]

Additionally, an article in the Economist, “Wealth Inequality, your money, your life, which can be accessed at this link, further discusses what income inequality means:

“Income inequality in America is at levels not seen since the 1920s, and the story is getting a lot of air time.”

The article then goes on to discuss the longer life spans associated with being wealthy and how poverty leads to further inequality with advancing age.

“As a bipartisan proposal to bring entitlement spending under control, raising the retirement age to 67 or 70 will enlist the working poor to pay into the system for a few more years, curtailing their retirement years to the single digits, while the taxes they pay will flow into Social Security checks for the wealthier and healthier. A senior with a fatter bank account wins twice—with greater longevity and more years drawing Social Security checks—while the poor work longer, live fewer years and collect less in benefits.

One need not be a radical egalitarian to find this picture morally troubling. To draw upon Princeton political theorist Michael Walzer’s view of “complex equality” developed in his 1983 book “Spheres of Justice”, the proposal seems wrong because it allows an inequality in one social good (wealth) to “invade the sphere” of another social good (the health and length of one’s life), and to feed back into and exacerbate wealth inequality.”

This unimaginable divide has continued unabated over the last thirty years, in part because, to rephrase the above cited article, money has been permitted to buy political power and the power to dominate others.

However, perhaps it is also due, at least in part, to a poverty mindset that keeps people from lower socioeconomic communities or homes from striving toward goals, institutions and careers offering more chances for greater economic success which their peers from higher socioeconomic communities pursue more routinely.  A recent report highlighted by David Leonhardt in the New York Times Education section, titled “Better Colleges Fail to Lure Talented Poor” (accessible through this link) speaks to this.

The article states:

“Most low-income students who have top test scores and grades do not even apply to the nation’s best colleges, according to a new analysis of every high school student who took the SAT in a recent year.

The pattern contributes to widening economic inequality and low levels of mobility in this country, economists say, because college graduates earn so much more on average than nongraduates do. Low-income students who excel in high school often do not graduate from the less selective colleges they attend.”

We all grow up in communities, and these communities, along with the homes we grow up in, impact our world view.  To reach beyond that and dream of dramatically higher aspirations takes a glimpse of the world beyond our daily understanding, a  certain mindset, determination, and external support or knowledge of gaining support,  and access to information put in clear, understandable terms. If you doubt this idea this, think of all the people in your life, how many of them are living markedly different lives from their families of origin? How many have elevated themselves from one social class to another?  Inequality exists in America, and has been growing at an unimaginably fast rate over the last decades.  Perhaps one way to begin to correct this is to teach our kids, especially our top scholastic performers that college, including so-called better college, is within their reach, that higher education from a respected institution is a genuine possibility, and that economic divide is artificially maintained by polices  which have unintended favorable outcomes for  to those of wealthier socioeconomic status.
Written by Michelle Sicignano, LMSW

Staff Writer, SJS

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