Income Distribution and Poverty Topic Index

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Data Connections and Additional Resources
Civilian Unemployment Rate

While it may seem reasonable to assume that people living in poverty are unemployed, in fact there are many "working poor" households in which the wage is insufficient to bring household income above the poverty threshold.

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Labor Productivity

Highly productive workers in a market economy are expected to have higher incomes than their less productive fellow workers. Since the pace of technological change has increased in recent years, the income gap between technically skilled college-educated workers has grown relative to workers with weak technical skills and only a high school education. In fact, real wages for men with only a high school education have actually declined since the 1970's.

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Real GDP

Growth in real per-capita GDP (real GDP divided by population) is considered to be an important indicator of improvement in material standard of living. Yet while real per-capita GDP has been growing in the U.S., the distribution of income in the U.S. is one of the most unequal of all industrially developed countries. Rapid advancements in technology that contribute to U.S. economic growth also cause people who lack technical training to fall further behind.

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Real Per-Capita Disposable Income

Real per-capita income is an average measure of a person's inflation-adjusted income in a particular country. Since no country has a perfectly equal distribution of income, real per-capita income always overstates material living standards for the poorest in society. Policies that promote growth in real per-capita income do not always reach the poorest in society. In fact, the disparity between the world's richest and poorest people has been rising.

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Stock Prices: S&P 500

The returns to capital, as measured by stock indexes such as the S&P 500, have far exceeded the returns to labor in recent years. In particular, while average wages in the U.S. have barely kept pace with inflation, the S&P 500 index has generated an average annual return of 22.98% for the five years ending with November 1998.

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