The Growth and Consequences of American Economic Inequality

Project Date:
Feb 2005
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Social, Political, and Economic Inequality

Since its inception in 2000, the Social Inequality project at the Russell Sage Foundation has sought to determine whether and to what extent inequality in social domains has increased as economic inequality has risen over the last 30 years. The project has amassed an interesting dossier of findings and is beginning to integrate them and gain perspective on the larger picture of the recent upturn in American inequality.


The Foundation is funding a book project by Bruce Western, a sociologist at Princeton University and a principal investigator on the Social Inequality project. The book will look at the effects of economic inequality on three American institutions: family structure and functioning, labor market norms and regulations, and social policies. Western will argue that rising economic inequality has weakened financial redistribution within each of these institutions leading to a replication of inequality over time.


The book will review the recent bout of rising inequality from historical and cross-national perspectives, asking why economic growth has been less effective in recent decades than it once was in reducing inequality and why European economies show significantly less inequality despite facing many of the same economic shocks as the United States. The book will feature previously funded work from the Social Inequality project and extensive original research, including Western’s ongoing exploration of the tie between the concurrent rise of economic inequality and incarceration rates.


Reports and Publications




RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


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