Continuing the theme of Evil Teabagger’s favorite graphs, this is on the topic of “income mobility” of which I am incredibly interested in. The idea that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer is a very common contemporary economic myth.
This graph shows what percentage of income groups in 1975 remained in that income group or moved out of it by 1991.
Example: The top left box shows what percentage of people remained in the bottom 20% from the years 1975 to 1991. By 1991, 94.9% of the individuals making up the bottom 20% in 1975 had moved up and out of that income bracket. The majority of them moved from the lowest quintile to the second highest in a matter of just 16 years.
This graphs shows that you should always be a little apprehensive when pundits spout out talking points about income disparity. Those statistics do a lot to scare people, but they leave out the point that people move throughout the economic ladder, both up and down. It’s also important to understand that the poor of today enjoy A LOT more wealth than the poor of 1975 (or 1900 or 1800). Same for income distribution across countries; the poorest in America enjoy a much better quality of life than the poor of North Korea or Haiti.