New Educational Materials on Trends in Inequality

May 2012

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Sharon Jank, Stanford University (
Lindsay Owens, Stanford University (

Between 2009 and 2011 media mentions of the phrase income inequality increased by over 250%. This rising interest in income inequality left many journalists, educators, and Americans scrambling for high-quality and informative facts about inequality. Unfortunately, existing research on inequality is not always easy to find, is quite technical, and often focuses narrowly on income inequality, paying less attention to the many other types of social and economic inequality in our society.

To remedy this problem, social scientists from different universities have compiled a broad set of facts and figures on inequality of all types; presented them in a clear format without academic jargon; and hosted them at one central location:

The educational materials include fourteen modules, each examining a different face of inequality. They are debt, education, employment, family, gender, health, immigration, income, mobility, politics, poverty, race and ethnicity, violent crime, and wealth.

The modules are authored by a team of social science doctoral students from around the country who spend their professional lives trying to understand the causes and consequences of inequality. As young scholars, they are in the trenches of the scholarly inequality debates. Each scholar has authored the module that most closely matches his or her area of expertise.

Each author's module contains between 4 and 6 key charts and figures, each depicting a striking trend or result in inequality in that domain. No module covers the entirety of social science research on a given topic. Instead, the compendium purposely forgoes depth for breadth, providing a wide-ranging array of information about inequality. The final figures are culled from hundreds of books, articles, datasets, policy briefs, and working papers.

The authors have also limited textual explanations to the bare minimum, providing just enough text to explain the figure, largely letting each figure speak for itself.

The resulting effort, a comprehensive set of some of the most important trends in American inequality, will be distributed to educators, journalists, community leaders, policymakers, students, and workers. Please post a link to this new resource on your website, share it with your colleagues, distribute it among your networks, and use it in any other ways that may be useful to your work.