BOOM: The Left’s Favorite Talking Point Disproved by Science

• April 22, 2014 1:20 pm


The Democratic Party’s obsession with income inequality and "the one percent" is factually misguided, science has found.

Over the weekend, leading academic professor Mark R. Rank discussed the findings of a recent scientific study on income inequality in the New York Times. It turns out that, according to scientific data, the Left’s horror stories about a rigid class structure in the United States fueled by nefarious, wealth-hoarding one-percenters is false.

"The picture drawn of the 1 percent has been that of a static population, just as the 99 percent is often portrayed as unchanging," Rank writes. "There is a line drawn between these two groups, and never the two shall cross."

But are these assertions corroborated by science? Or is the reality more complex? Is American society more fluid economically than liberals would have us believe?

That’s what Rank and his scientific research partner Thomas A. Hirschl sought to find out by examining 44 years of data regarding incomes. Here’s what they found:

  • 12 percent of the population will find themselves in the top 1 percent of the income distribution for at least one year.
  • 39 percent of Americans will spend a year in the top 5 percent of the income distribution.
  • 56 percent will find themselves in the top 10 percent.
  • 73 percent will spend a year in the top 20 percent of the income distribution.

"It is clear that the image of a static 1 and 99 percent is largely incorrect," Rank writes. "The majority of Americans will experience at least one year of affluence at some point during their working careers. (This is just as true at the bottom of the income distribution scale, where 54 percent of Americans will experience poverty or near poverty at least once between the ages of 25 and 60)."

This economic fluidity has been further confirmed, using science, by tax-policy expert Robert Carroll, who found that more than half of the individuals who earned more than $1 million a year between 1999 and 2007 did so only once during that period, while just 6 percent did so over the entire period.

Meanwhile, scientific analysts at the IRS examined data regarding the top 400 taxpayers between 1992 and 2009 and found that more than two-thirds made the list just once, while a mere 2 percent were on the list for more than a decade.

"These analyses further demonstrate the sizable amount of turnover and movement within the top levels of the income distribution," Rank writes. "Ultimately, this information casts serious doubt on the notion of a rigid class structure in the United States based upon income."

Contrary to conventional wisdom and the rhetoric of President Obama, "the United States is indeed a land of opportunity, that the American dream is still possible," science confirms.

Rank suggests we stop "talking about the 1 percent and the 99 percent as if they were forever fixed." Rather we should emphasize the fact that "Americans are likely to be exposed to both prosperity and poverty during their lives" and "shape our policies accordingly."

This would certainly be a constructive development in our national discourse. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely to happen so long as one of the two major political parties in this country and its supporters continue to deny science.