How Inequality, Not Polling, Predicted the 2020 Election

By Karen Petrou

Perhaps nothing is as startling about the 2020 election as the bad calls pollsters made up to the minute votes were counted.  One might have thought all the mistakes that led to similar 2016 gaffes were corrected – pollsters certainly said so – but they weren’t and the reason why is sad, but simple.  The political-science models on which polling is premised are, like monetary-policy models and so much conventional wisdom, predicated on the vibrant U.S. middle class that once was but is no more.  As we showed early on the economic inequality blog, economic inequality breeds not just acute political polarization, but also a strongly right-leaning shift in voter sentiment.  No wonder – American voters denied the iconic promise of modest economic security and inter-generational mobility are angry.  The more they see prosperity enjoyed by only a few and often a progressive few at that, the angrier they get.  Add in COVID, and this is a witch’s brew of economic despair, social anger, political polarization, and national instability.

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The Dollars That Make a Difference: Results of the New Survey of Consumer Finances

By Matthew Shaw and Karen Petrou

Every three years, the Federal Reserve releases a unique, illuminating data set, the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF).  The most recent report covering 2016 to 2019 comes at a time of acute political risk for the U.S. central bank due to growing demands for a third, “racial-equity” mandate and heightened recognition of the inequality impact of post-crisis monetary policy.  Perhaps for this reason, the Fed’s qualitative release and much subsequent media coverage highlighted what the Fed described as meaningful reductions in both wealth and income inequality.  Would it were so – percentages sometimes work in the Fed’s favor, but real dollars in people’s pockets, or the acute lack thereof, don’t.

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Trying to Get By While Black

By Karen Petrou

  • African-Americans were better off before the civil-rights era began than they were in mid-2019.
  • Truly huge disparities lie between white and black Americans in terms of income, wealth, and inter-generational mobility.
  • And that was before COVID eviscerated low-income households of color from both a health and economic point of view.
  • It’s past time for equality-focused financial policy, starting first with Equality Banks.

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American Millennials: The Generation the Recovery Left Behind

By Karen Petrou

In our last blog post, we chronicled the continuing demise of the American middle class.  Now, we turn to the equality disaster evident in the most recent U.S. demographics.  A new General Accountability Office (GAO) study confirms that millennials (those aged 18-37) are rapidly losing any chance of doing better than their parents and trends are extraordinarily inauspicious for NextGen followers.  Inter-generational economic mobility was once as much a hallmark of America as its robust middle class – in 1970, 92 percent of 30-year-olds made more money in inflation-adjusted terms than their parents did at similar ages even though the 1970 economy was considerably weaker than the prewar boom.  Now, millennials are far, far behind their parents.  Looking at wealth share,* baby-boomers owned 21 percent of U.S. net wealth when they turned 35 (1990 on average). Continue reading “American Millennials: The Generation the Recovery Left Behind”

2020’s Equality Policies 101

By Karen Petrou

On July 18, the Economic Policy Subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee turned its attention from the panel’s usual agenda to an unusual hearing on the challenges posed by U.S. economic inequality and what Congress might actually do about them.  For the first time, we saw a shared belief by senators on both sides of the aisle and diverse witnesses that, over the past two decades, Americans have become mired in the income and wealth into which they are born.  This isn’t exactly a news flash – see our prior blog posts on how unequal America has become and our most recent one on the dearth of public resources with which to counter fierce economic downdrafts.  However, it isn’t just that senators finally discovered inequality – it’s that the outline of a bipartisan response took shape.  Thus, for all the difficulty in Congress doing anything about even something as critical as economic inequality, the session was a break-out moment. Continue reading “2020’s Equality Policies 101”