Americans don’t care about income gaps because we’re racist?

I write about it all the time. Most Americans are feeling the squeeze. We’re dealing with rising costs for fuel, education, health care and food, while our wages are falling. Yet our country is still considered the richest most powerful on the planet. It’s not hard to see where those riches are, but why are they so concentrated at the top? In a nation built on the promise of freedom and equality, why aren’t we as economically egalitarian as our friends in Europe?

While reading Digby’s excellent blog, I was introduced to this paper by Sociologist Nathan Glazer of Harvard. In simple terms, Glazer thinks that because our poor have generally been racially minorities, and no one wanted to support government programs that gave money primarily to them.

“Racial fragmentation and the disproportionate representation of ethnic minorities among the poor played a major role in limiting redistribution…. Our bottom line is that Americans redistribute less than Europeans for three reasons: because the majority of Americans believe that redistribution favors racial minorities, because Americans believe that they live in an open and fair society, and that if someone is poor it is his or her own fault, and because the political system is geared toward preventing redistribution. In fact the political system is likely to be endogenous to these basic American beliefs.”(p. 61) “Endogenous” is economics-ese for saying we have the political system we do because we prefer the results it gives, such as limiting redistribution to the blacks.

Thus the racial factor as well as a wider net of social beliefs play a key role in why Americans don’t care about income inequality, and why, not caring, they have no great interest in expanding the welfare state.


  1. Ian

    OMG u r such a commie/socialist I dismiss wut u say w/o reason.

  2. Ugh. Sociologists should never try to get involved in economic decisions or analysis of decisions. Why? Because their theories are never falsifiable like most of economics is supposed to be. Stupid sociologists…