So here’s some bad news: The rise in wealth inequality? It’s permanent.

wealth vs income inequality

This graph, which shows wealth inequality is even more severe than income inequality, isn’t related to the study. It’s just more bad news.

“Permanent,” here, is a technical term. The other option would be “transitory.” If the inequality we were seeing was merely transitory, it would mean that in any given year, sure, inequality is really high, but five years down the line, the families at the bottom of the income distribution might have moved to the top, or vice versa.

In an impressive new paper, Vasia Panousi and Ivan Vidangos of the Federal Reserve Board, Shanti Ramnath of the Treasury Department, Jason DeBacker of Middle Tennessee State University and Bradley Heim of Indiana University got tax data for 34,000 households between 1987 and 2009 and use it to track what was actually happening to individual families over that period.


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