Wealth and Poverty

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If California Split into Six States, This Is What It Would Look Like

Includes interactive map

Click on different points on the map below to see which counties would be part of each one of California’s six new states, as outlined in a proposed ballot initiative. Per capita income and population figures are listed for each “state,” based on an analysis by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. The new jurisdictions underscore California’s extreme wealth disparities.

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Think California’s just too darn big for its own good? Well now there’s a strong likelihood you’ll get to vote on it.

A Silicon Valley venture capitalist today submitted what he claims are enough petition signatures to get his initiative, to split California into six states, on the 2016 statewide ballot.

And no, this is not a joke. Continue reading

Why All the Hype about Thomas Piketty’s “Capital”?

Includes videos

It’s nearly 700 pages. It covers dense economic theory. And it’s written by a French guy you’ve probably never heard of.

So why is “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” Thomas Piketty’s far-reaching economic analysis of global inequality, flying off the shelves faster than a new Beyoncé album?

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A Brief History of May Day and the Battle for the 8-Hour Work Day

Includes videos

The Haymarket affair, as depicted in a Harper’s Magazine engraving (Wikimedia Commons)


For some, May Day is a time to prance like a wood nymph around a flower-wreathed pole. But that’s probably not what thousands of workers around the world have in mind when they take to the streets today. Continue reading

Income Inequality in America, An Illustrated Guide

Includes illustrated infographic

IncomeInequality_slice2A few years ago, Occupy Wall Street protests spread like wildfire in cities across the country, forcing a focus on America’s gaping income gaps. The issue took center stage for a time, making headlines, grabbing the attention of elected leaders and sparking some hope that real change was within reach. But when the protest camps were dismantled and the media crews packed up their equipment, the nation’s attention quickly shifted elsewhere. In the end not much had changed. Today the income divide remains as steep as it was the day the protests began. Cartoon journalist Andy Warner explains just how deep America’s economic divide really is. (Sources listed below graphic)

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How Big Is the Wage Gap Between Women and Men?

Includes maps, videos, interactive charts
Courtesy of PBS

Courtesy of PBS

The wage gap between men and women has gradually narrowed in recent decades, but it remains significant.

According to the Obama Administration, full-time working woman in the US. make, on average, just 77 cents for every dollar that men make. At that rate, it’d take more than 60 additional days for a woman to earn what a man had made at the end of the previous year. Continue reading

What’s the Link Between Economics and Crime in America’s Most Violent Cities?

Includes interactive chart
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One of Detroit’s many abandoned factories (Wikipedia)

A city’s high violent crime rate can result from any number of societal factors, and attempts at pinpointing can quickly turn into a tricky — if not specious — exercise.

While it’s easy enough to find correlations, proving causation becomes a far greater challenge: just because two variables occur simultaneously does not mean one was the cause of the other. For instance, even though most violent cities also have higher-than-average unemployment rates, not all all cities with high unemployment rates are violent. And while some perennially high-crime cities clearly suffer from a shortage of police officers, many relatively safe cities also have a low rate of officers per population.

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America, the Land of Opportunity? Not for Most Poor Kids, One Study Finds

Includes cartoon infographic


Contrary to the mantra commonly touted by politicians on the campaign trail, few Americans born into poverty ever get to experience the iconic rise from “rags to riches.”

A new study by a team of UC Berkeley and Harvard economists examined upward income mobility throughout the nation, finding that less than 8 percent of people born at the bottom 20 percent of the income ladder ever climb to the top 20 percent as adults. The study, though, also found that geographic location can significantly impact those odds. Cartoon journalist Andy Warner explains. Continue reading

How Poverty Is Measured in America, Explained in Two Cartoons

Includes video and cartoon infographics

During his State of the Union Address delivered 50 years ago on January 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty in America.” At the time, roughly 19 percent of Americans were living below the newly developed federal poverty line. Johnson’s declaration ushered in a wave of social welfare legislation — part of a set of domestic reforms that became known as “The Great Society.” It led to the creation of health and education safety net programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start and food stamps. By 1969, when he left office, the poverty rate had dropped by more than a third, to about 12 percent. Continue reading

What Are Your Odds of Winning the Lottery?

By Joe Golling

If you gamble on faith — not on odds — you might want to stop reading this now. Because the chances of winning just about any big stakes lottery game — like Mega Millions  — is just north of impossible. Let’s take Powerball, for instance. Odds of winning the jackpot: about 1 in 175 million. By comparison, your odds of getting hit by lightening — a presumably less favorable outcome — are significantly higher. So, be sure to take shelter during thunderstorms, and, if you play the lottery: you might not want to quit your day job just yet. But hey, you never know, right? People win all the time. In this animation and accompanying infographic, animator Joe Golling explains how to calculate the mathematical possibilities of buying the winning ticket.

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In One-Day Strike, Fast-Food Workers Demand A Living Wage

Includes video
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Workers and advocates demonstrate outside of a McDonald’s in Oakland last summer. (Flickr/Steve Rhodes)

Fast-food workers at restaurants in more than 100 cities across the country, including Oakland and other East Bay cities, are walking off the the job today in a push for a major wage hike.

Backed by organized labor, the one-day actions are part of a year-old campaign to highlight the difficulties low-wage workers face in paying for basic living costs.

Following on the heels of similar protests last summer, demonstrators are demanding a wage of $15 an hour, a significant — though unlikely — raise from the current average fast-food industry wage of less than $9 an hour. Continue reading