Wage Inequality, Earnings Inequality and Poverty in the U.S. Over the Last Quarter of the Twentieth Century

Publication Date:
Jan 2004
Project Programs:
Social, Political, and Economic Inequality

This paper analyzes distributional changes over the last quarter of the twentieth century. We focus on three conceptually distinct distributions:
the distribution of wage rates, the distribution of annual earnings and the distribution of total family income adjusted for family size. We show that all three distributions became considerably less equal during the last half of the 1970s and the 1980s. The increase in inequality of wage rates and family income continued during the 1990s, but at a slower rate. Earnings inequality remained roughly constant in the 1990s, in part because lowwage workers increased their hours of work relative to those of the average worker.


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.


The Russell Sage Foundation offers grants and positions in our Visiting Scholars program for research.


Join our mailing list for email updates.