The distribution of wealth

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Paul Greenburg in his column of Dec. 11 states that the distribution of American wealth is the same as it was 20 years ago, or even 60 or 80 years ago. He goes on to cite a Congressional Budget Office report and says that every quintile of American income has shown a real increase in purchasing power of at least 18 percent over the past 30 years.

Mr. Greenburg appears to be referring to the October 2011 CBO report on trends in the distribution of household income between 1979 and 2007. This report states that the 20 percent of the population with the lowest income had an 18 percent increase in its after-tax income during this period of time.

However, it also shows that the 1 percent with the highest income had a 275 percent increase in its after-tax income. Additionally the highest 20 percent of the population had a 65 percent increase in its after-tax income. By comparison, the remaining 80 percent of the population only had only a 40 percent increase in its after-tax income.

In summary, this CBO report states that "the distribution of after-tax household income in the United States was substantially more unequal in 2007 than in 1979: The share of income accruing to higher-income households increased, whereas the share accruing to other households declined."

This would appear to contradict the statement that the distribution of wealth in this country remained the same over the past 20 years.

JOHN PIEPHO, Cape Girardeau