1 February 2023
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US income inequality grew in 2021 for the first time in a decade, according to data the Census Bureau released in September 2022.

That might sound surprising, since the most accurate measure of the poverty rate declined during the same time span.

But for development experts like me, this apparent contradiction makes perfect sense.

That’s because what’s been driving income inequality in the United States – and around the world for years – is that the very rich are getting even richer, rather than the poor getting poorer.

In every major region of the world outside of Europe, extreme wealth is becoming concentrated in just a handful of people.

Gini index

Economists and other experts track the gap between the rich and the poor with what’s known as the Gini index or coefficient.

This common measure of income inequality is calculated by assessing the relative share of national income received by proportions of the population.

In a society with perfect equality – meaning everyone receives an equal share of the pie – the Gini coefficient would be 0. In the most unequal society conceivably possible, where a single person hoarded every penny of that nation’s wealth, the Gini coefficient would be 1.

The Gini index rose by 1.2% in the US in 2021 to 0.494 from 0.488 a year earlier, the Census found. In many other countries, by…

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Abdul Gh Lone

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