U.S. Rich-Poor Gap Widest In World

The United States has the widest gap between rich and poor of any of the world's largest industrial countries, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The report was more comprehensive than earlier studies that had reached similar conclusions and was designed, in part, to answer conservative analysts' criticism of the earlier surveys. The Paris-based OECD is a consortium of the world's 25 wealthiest nations and aims to coordinate their economic policies. According to the report, the income of an American adult in the 90th percentile -- who takes home more than 90% of all Americans -- is 5.9 times the income of an adult in the 10th percentile. By comparison, in Finland, a 90th percentile adult earns only 2.59 times as much as one in the 10th percentile. The OECD survey covered the 1980s, but a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities study found that the trend toward increasing inequality has continued. The Centre's analysis of Census Bureau data for the 1989-1994 period found that:--Household income dropped for all groups except the richest.--The bottom 40% of households received a record low of only 12.5% of income.--The top 20% of households took in nearly half (49.1%) of income -- a record high. The top 5% of household received 21.2% of income, another record high.--The top 20% of households garnered four times as much income as the bottom 40%.Between 1989 and 1994, incomes of the poorest fifth of the population in the United States fell 7.5%; incomes of the second poorest fifth fell 7.6%; incomes of the middle fifth fell 6.3%; incomes of the next richest fifth rose 3.6%; and incomes of the richest 5% of the population increased 10.8%.

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