At the beginning of November, I wrote about the wage gap that women experience compared with their male counterparts. Income inequality is much more than a gendered issue though. Income inequality exists among any number of groups within countries’ populations around the world as well as among the world’s population as a whole.

In 2011, Max Roser (@MaxCRoser) started Our World In Data, a web publication out of the University of Oxford where he is employed. The site covers the changing development of the world in various areas such as population, technology, war and peace, and education. Empirical data for each topic is represented with superb interactive data visualizations which are all considered “public goods” by the creators and are listed under a permissive creative commons license.

Roser recently published a piece on the site’s blog which gave a brief look at the shift in global inequality that occurred in the decade spanning from 2003 to 2013. In this blog post, he looks at the disposable annual income of world citizens against their position in the global distribution of incomes.

On the subject of global income inequality, Esteban Ortiz-Ospina (@eortizospina) and Max Roser organized data from more than twenty data sets into a comprehensive report with data visualizations revealing the many forms in which such inequality exists. As with many of the site’s other reports, it includes sections offering an empirical view of the data as well as a section with correlates and consequences.

global economic inequality
Image (CC BY-SA) from OurWorldInData.org

The interactive version of the graphic above shows, by country, the changing economic inequality around the world based on the Gini Index (more about the Gini Coefficient here). In Latin America, the level of income inequality among countries’ richest and poorest citizens is the highest out of any other region in the world, though it has seen a slight decline in the last twenty years.

Looking more closely at inequality in rich countries, more interesting trends were revealed. Here it is evident that in English speaking countries, inequality was decreasing in the first half of the 20th century before bouncing back after the 70’s and returning to the high-levels seen around right before the first world war. Conversely, in countries in continental Europe and Japan, declined sharply until around the same time when the rate slowed but did not reverse.

income inequality
Image (CC BY-SA) from OurWorldInData.org

Furthermore, Ortiz-Ospina and Roser draw conclusions on the correlations between globalization and technological advancements and inequality around the globe. While there is currently no definitive answer to these questions, there is enough empirical data to draw hypotheses that a strong correlation exists. By examining the existence of economic inequality from many different perspectives, we can hope to gain a better understanding of where the inequality comes from and where we go from here. While it is true that poverty in the US and globally has been on the decline, there is still a long way to go.

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