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Occupy Wall Street One Year Later: Ten Key Charts About Inequality

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"Occupy Wall Street One Year Later: Ten Key Charts About Inequality"

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Today marks the one year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protests, and activists intend to mark the milestone by holding a new round of demonstrations. Dozens have already been arrested, even before the main protests began.

Occupy Wall Street managed to turn the attention of America’s politicians, at least for a moment, to income inequality, economic mobility, and the dismal state of both in the U.S. Here are some key facts and figures to know as Occupy once again takes to the streets:

1) Income inequality grew in 2011. According to data released last week by the Census Bureau, the gap between the wealthiest Americans and those in the middle grew last year, as all but the richest 20 percent of the country saw their income drop.

2) America’s 1 percent have 288 times as much wealth as the median household. This constitutes a huge increase from 1962, when the ratio was 125-1.


3) Income inequality kills economic mobility. As this chart shows, as a country grows more unequal, it becomes more likely that a parent’s income will act as a predictor for her child’s income. When it comes to economic mobility, the U.S. lags behind its peer nations.

4) The middle class is shrinking. According to Prof. Alan Krueger, Chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, “the shift in income inequality over the last three decades is the equivalent of moving $1.1 trillion of income from the 99 percent to the top 1 percent every single year.”

5) Corporate profits have skyrocketed over the last three years. Both after-tax profits and corporate profits as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) are higher than they were in the middle of the last decade.

6) Workers aren’t being compensated for productivity increases. As this chart from the Economic Policy Institute shows, productivity gains over the last several decades have not translated into rising compensation.

7) The bottom 95 percent of Americans have $1.48 in debt for every $1 in earnings. The top 5 percent, meanwhile, have 64 cents in debt for every $1 in earnings, according to a report from the International Monetary Fund.

8) The financial sector’s profits have bounced back. Incomes, of course, have not followed suit.

9) CEO pay increased 127 times faster than worker pay over the last 30 years. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “CEO pay at American firms has risen 725 percent, more than 127 times faster than worker pay over the same time period.” This chart shows the growing ratio of executive pay to worker pay. The average Fortune 500 CEO now makes 380 times as much as the typical worker.

10) Low-wage jobs are increasing. The five industries that are mostly comprised of low-wage workers “have grown faster than total employment since the end of the Great Recession.” One in four private sector workers makes less than $10 per hour.

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