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December 15, 2007

Rich getting richer, faster

Income inequality is increasing very rapidly in the US, according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office:

The increase in incomes of the top 1 percent of Americans from 2003 to 2005 ($524.8 billion) exceeded the total income of the poorest 20 percent of Americans ($383.4 billion), according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office. “On average, incomes for the top 1 percent of households rose by $465,700 each, or 42.6 percent after adjusting for inflation. The incomes of the poorest fifth rose by $200, or 1.3 percent, and the middle fifth increased by $2,400 or 4.3 percent.”  [NYT/Think Progress]

Speaking of inequality, Roy culled the following 'graph from a commenter of Dr. Helen's. The commenter was, in turn, responding to another post about how uppity women wreck marriage and dating:

Most men are simply priced out of the marriage and dating market. If you dropped a mere $100K in the yearly bank account of those lonely, "shy" men women would be all around and over them. Because the men would have higher RELATIVE status. Which would make them sexy instead of losers. [whiskey_199]

W_199 went on to assert that this putative sociological fact is attributable to the hardwired shallowness of women. I hear this argument pretty often, almost always from men. The moral of the story is invariably that modern women are too snotty for their own good. If you were casting about for a whole gender to blame using the same premises, you could just as easily argue that men are lazy SOBs who refuse to better themselves. Yet, that's seldom the moral of the story. Nor should it be.

I wish liberals would talk more about how increasing relative economic inequality might be affecting people's day-to-day lives. Abject material deprivation is only part of the problem. For example, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that a lot of young people are priced out of marriage--not because they can't find a willing partner, but because they don't have enough financial stability to "justify" getting married.

If you don't have substantial assets in common, or a job that would give benefits to a spouse, marriage just isn't as practically alluring as it might have been.

I don't view declining marriage rates as a problem--unless marriage is just one more dream that is being squelched by inequality. Obviously, a lot of people disagree with me about the intrinsic value of high marriage rates. Often, they cloak their social conservatism in utilitarian arguments about how marriage is a great solution to poverty.

Addressing poverty and other kinds of income insecurity might actually give people more incentive to get married.

Of course, as Amanda notes so often, it's easier just to blame women.

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Statistics from the December 2007 "Harper's Index:"
=================================================
Percentage of U.S. CEOs who believed this spring that the economy was either "good" or "excellent": 84

Percentage of Americans overall who believed this: 37
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Mitt Romney says there aren't Two Americas, and John Edwards saying that makes him feel like throwing something at the TV. Maybe instead of getting angry, Mitt Romney should listen to John Edwards.

this is the main reason i support edwards, i dont hear the other candidates talking about this. as for the sociobiology, its garbage.

Maintaining any kind of romantic relationship is strained if you're in the lower income percentiles - married, unmarried, male, female, gay, or straight.

"Say hon, shall we go out to dinner and catch a movie?" "Um, no, we'd better just stay home and eat the rest of the mac & cheese if we want to make the rent this month."

"Hey sweetheart, let's drive down to Baja and go sea kayaking for a week." "Are you out of your fucking mind?"

Repeat variations of similar conversations for the rest of your life and see if it doesn't have a corrosive effect on romance.

Agreed, cfrost. I wasn't even thinking about romance when I wrote the post. Dr. Helen's post somehow managed to drive those thoughts out of my mind entirely and refocus me on the crass commercial aspects of the marital bond. Funny how anti-feminists and social conservatives do that...

Here’s the CBO report in bar chart form. Followed by some amazing commentary of the not seeing the elephant standing in the middle of the room variety by some crazy conservative people.

"I wish liberals would talk more about how increasing relative economic inequality might be affecting people's day-to-day lives."

Me too. Not only is it a hot topic out here in the heartland, but it seems pretty basic to the definition of what "liberalism" is. So what are we missing?

well, it certainly is my experience that American women in particular are obsessed with status. I have a friend/ ex-GF who blathers on all the time about how much she cares about the poor, but somehow all her friends and ex-BFs are from Fairfield County and Ivy educated. She insists she doesn't care about money and social class, but doesn't get it that speaking French fluently and having a breezy familarity with Victorian literature and a noble indifference to having a career and making money are related to upper-class privilege. When I was a dishwasher, with no high school diploma, I crtainly knew no woman would give me the time of day. Nor an Ivy school, for that matter. With a 1500 sat I had an admissions officer laugh in my face for even inquiring about applying. (compare JFK, Jr, a guy dumb as a brick, but welcome at Brown and NYU Law). Anyway, I find all American checks to be dull and mostly chinky to boot.

As for income inequality, your discussion is ungrounded in logic or economics. Successful people who are earning more taking advantage of improvements in productivity and globalization, they are not stealing it from the poor, who are poor because they are economically of little value. I see no reason to pay higher taxes just so someone who is worth 15,000 a year can get a check for another 5000 from the government. And because there are a lot more poor and unsuccessful people than people like me, I would have to shell out for a dozen loafers i.e. 60k out of my pocket, just to use an illustrative number. No. Thankfully, no serious candidate for President believes in such policies. (Not even Edwards, who is a transparently fake slimy weazel)

You know, the argument W_199 makes might actually be true of the women he's seeking to the exclusion of all others. Why that's an argument that *women* are shallow, when it's clearly evidence of his own shallow nature is a great anecdote about the nature of projection. It feels weird to point that out, though, because there's always the threat that Nice Guys® will decide to open up the pool of women they hit on to include women outside of the 1% of women who spend all their time trussing and getting surgery in hopes of landing a rich husband, and then the rest of us have to suffer getting hit on even more by assholes.

See, milorad is a perfect example. If he was willing to quit being so shallow in his definition of "women", a definition that excludes all women who are less obsessed with appearances and probably therefore less a trophy item for him, it could have the bad effect of him actually seeking out someone a little shabbier, nerdier, and deeper and then making her miserable by trying to "improve" her in the tanning bed/expensive clothes/make-up department.

Still, I wish Milo would give our checks another look. Its no longer just blue, yellow, or clowns with balloons; today, you can get Betty Boop, your favorite NASCAR driver, or an eagle with a flag waving behind it, among many, many other choices. And they're a lot less chinky than they used to be, too.

This article started out good, talking about wealth disparities but then degenerated into some crappy piece about not being able to date or marry because of no money. Puhhhh-lease!!! Ridiculous. cfrost, your little story is also ridiculous. I went through a long stetch with very little money, but still found a way to take my girlfriend (now wife) out in Chicago, which is not cheap. We suffered and scraped by while I was in law school and it made our relationship stronger. We actually had to, GASP, stay home a lot and actually talk! Oh my, poor people are being tortured to have to do this. Must be a conservative conspriacy to destroy the love lives of poor liberals!!!

As for the assertion that a an ugly guy with $100K would go from loser to chic is also lame. Getting dates (women) for a man really comes down to one thing, personality, or "game". If you have good "game" you can talk to women and impress them without being flashy. But I am also no dummy and I know a few bucks never hurts. But to say a schmoe with a terrible personality who was obnoxious would somehow be transformed with some coin in his bank account is silly.

Let's discuss the first part of this topic, the alarming wealth disparity that continues to exist in this country...

Does it matter if this behavior is genetic or social? It exists, and it's probably the leading cause of misogyny in this society. At some point, feminists have to start taking the complaints of men seriously, rather than simply ridiculing them. After all, it would be awfully easy to ridicule a movement of upper class women that likes to complain about their lack of power in this society, too.

Personal anecdotes can not be used to refute sociological observations. It doesn't matter if YOU personally still had an easy time dating when you were broke, what matters is what the AVERAGE males experience is likely to be. To argue otherwise is foolish. It's like when Bill Cosby gets on his soap box and starts preaching about the plight of Black America. HE doesn't see the problem because it doesn't apply to him. That doesn't mean it's not a problem. If this wasn't at all a problem, it wouldn't a centuries old source of resentment, now would it?

I went through a long stetch with very little money, but still found a way to take my girlfriend (now wife) out in Chicago, which is not cheap. We suffered and scraped by while I was in law school and it made our relationship stronger.

In other words, you were sacrificing some degree of short-term pleasure in exchange for a fairly assured prosperous future in the long-term. Times were tough, but you could be confident that that better times were ahead. That really has no relation to cfrost's point, as I understood it, which is about the stresses a lifetime of "suffering and scraping by," with no end in sight, puts on a relationship.

You say you're (rightly) concerned about widening income inequality. I think cfrost was just pointing out one of the less talked-about ramifications of that problem.

Switching gears now: Milorad finally made a valid point! Chinky checks are the worst. I like my checks smooth as a baby's behind.

After all, it would be awfully easy to ridicule a movement of upper class women that likes to complain about their lack of power in this society, too.

Um...people do, all the time. Surely you've noticed that lots of lefty/feminist bloggers like to jump all over the NYTimes when they do one of their atrocious "lifestyle" pieces on the stresses and strains of life for the white-gloved-doorman set. Anyway, how does this refute anything Lindsey wrote?

Milo, of course, has his status anxiety as well. He's always trying to get a comment through moderation at my blog informing me of how much better women are in Ukraine than in America. As for his Ivy League anxiety, he certainly doesn't like being reminded that his law school isn't in the top 10.

Someone over at Pandagon mentioned debt levels as one reason that people might not want to marry nowadays, since you'd be taking on responsibility for debt that you hadn't incurred. This was less of a problem before student loans got out of hand, or when people married younger and without a credit history.

Actually, that would be Amanda who mentioned it. I missed that bit.

Oh, one more thing: JFK, Jr. would have gotten plenty of ass even if he weren't rich or the son of the president because he was SMOKING HOT.

Don't know if we have the right to post abstracts here, but I found this that may be relevant to the present discussion. Note that I'm not claiming that the EP explanation is right (it may be just social learning) but I don't think the numbers can be argued with.

Pérusse, Daniel Mate choice in modern societies: Testing evolutionary hypotheses with behavioral data.Human Nature. 1994 Vol 5(3) 255-278

Abstract Most research on mate choice in modern societies is based on data that may or may not reflect actual mating behavior (e.g., stated preferences, personal advertisements). In the present study, real-life matings were reported by a large representative sample of men and women (N = 1,133). These data were used to test an evolutionary model in which mate choice is hypothesized to depend on resources potentially contributed to reproduction by each sex. Consistent with the model, it was found that (a) men (but not women) of higher social status acquire more mating partners, suggesting that male status is an important criterion in female choice; (b) women’s (but not men’s) number of partners decreases linearly with age, suggesting that female reproductive potential is an important criterion in male choice; and (c) women (but not men) display a significant relationship between marital dissolution and promiscuity, suggesting that female sexual exclusivity is an important criterion in male choice. These results are discussed in relation to understanding mate choice mechanisms from behavioral data.

Just to be clear: I have nothing to do with this research (and moreover I am far from a fan of EP).

I went through a long stretch with very little money, but still found a way to take my girlfriend (now wife) out in Chicago, which is not cheap. We suffered and scraped by while I was in law school and it made our relationship stronger.

Funnier than Milo. Tell it to the waitress.

"Does it matter if this behavior is genetic or social? It exists, and it's probably the leading cause of misogyny in this society."

A lot of very thoughtful people have considered the nature of misogyny in both individuals and society; and believe it or not, they've found that its more often the result of psychological factors within the misogynist, than the faults the misogynist percieves in females. Sleep on it, and see what you think.

"Oh, one more thing: JFK, Jr. would have gotten plenty of ass even if he weren't rich or the son of the president because he was SMOKING HOT."

He would've been sexier if he'd never done "George".

--Not even Edwards, who is a transparently fake slimy weazel--

Milorad, don't insult the weasel kingdom like that.

He is a ambulance-chasing slip'n'fall lawyer. His political career is over. He can soon go back to investing in companies that foreclose on Katrina victims.

If women have a "genetic" preference for men with money, what's your beef, soullite? Isn't that just like men having a genetic preference for women with big breasts? Is "I can't help being an asshole, evolution made me this way" a line only men are allowed to utter?

--Isn't that just like men having a genetic preference for women with big breasts?--

I don't think that men in general have any such preference. Strip club clientele are not necessarily representative.

Nothing wrong with breasts, mind you, but bigger is not better, and the plasticky implant look is the worst of all.

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