Trying to understand income inequality, the most profound change in American society in your lifetime.

What's causing America's growing income inequality?
Sept. 14 2010 10:29 PM

The United States of Inequality

Trying to understand income inequality, the most profound change in American society in your lifetime.

Timothy Noah's 10-part series on inequality, published in Slate last September, has won the 2011 Hillman Prize for magazine journalism, an honor awarded annually by the Sidney Hillman Foundation for reporting that "fosters social and economic justice." It was clear from the moment of publication that "The Great Divergence" struck a chord, treating a profound and complicated issue in an engaging and understandable way, and we're delighted that the Hillman Foundation has recognized Noah's work. You can read the series below, or print a PDF.

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In the late 1970s, a half-century trend toward growing income equality reversed itself. Ever since, U.S. incomes have grown more unequal. Middle-class incomes stagnated while the top 1 percent's share of national income climbed to 24 percent. Middle-income workers no longer benefit from productivity increases, and upward mobility, long the saving grace of the American economy, has faltered. Why is this happening? In the following 10-part series, Slate's Timothy Noah weighs eight possible causes of what Princeton economist Paul Krugman has labeled the Great Divergence. This 30-year trend "may represent the most significant change in American society in your lifetime," Noah writes, "and it's not a change for the better."

Part 1

Introducing the Great Divergence: Trying to understand income inequality.

Part 2

The Usual Suspects Are Innocent: Neither race nor gender nor the breakdown of the American family created the Great Divergence.

Part 3

Did Immigration Create the Great Divergence? Why we can't blame income inequality on the post-1965 immigration surge.

Part 4

Did Computers Create Inequality?
No. The tech boom's impact was no greater than that of previous technological upheavals during the 20th century.

Part 5

Can We Blame Income Inequality on Republicans?Yes, but for the very richest beneficiaries the trend has been bipartisan.

Part 6

The Great Divergence and the Death of Organized Labor: How has the decline of the union contributed to income inequality?

Part 7

The Great Divergence and International Trade: Trade didn't create inequality, and then it did.

Part 8

The Stinking Rich and the Great Divergence: Executive compensation took off in the 1980s and 1990s. Is it to blame?

Part 9

How the Decline in K-12 Education Enriches College Graduates: When the workforce needed to be smarter, Americans got dumber.

Part 10

Why we can't ignore growing income inequality: It undermines the ideal of e pluribus unum.

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.

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