CHART: The United States Has The Worst Income Inequality In The OECD-24 (UPDATED)

Last week, my colleague Zaid Jilani pointed out that America’s income inequality is worse than that in places like Pakistan and Ethoipia and roughly equivalent to that in Uganda and the Ivory Coast. Before its revolution, Egypt’s income inequality — which played a role in sparking the uprising against former President Mubarak’s regime — was actually better than that in the U.S.

This is some dubious company. And as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted today, America has the worst income inequality amongst 24 nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (known as the OECD-24):

This chart measures inequality after taxes and all other government benefits, showing that the U.S. is doing a miserable job dealing with inequality through government policy.

Income inequality in the U.S. is currently the worst its been since the 1920s. Just the richest 400 Americans hold more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of Americans combined, and the richest 10 percent of Americans control two-thirds of the country’s net worth. Currently, the top one percent of households make nearly 25 percent of the total income in the country, after they made less than 10 percent in the 1970s. Between 1980 and 2005, “more than 80 percent of total increase in Americans’ income went to the top 1 percent.”


One of the manifestations of this inequality is hedge fund managers making as much in two minutes as Navy SEALs make in a year. Yet, Republicans in Congress are still content to whine about the unfairness of returning tax rates on the wealthy to the level at which they were under President Bill Clinton. And of course they consider new tax brackets for millionaires — like those proposed by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) — to be entirely out of the question.


The CBPP study only looked at 24 countries in the OCED, not the full complement of 34. The post has been updated accordingly.