Income inequality is front and center in this year's presidential elections, but the American Economic Review recently took a look beyond income to the concept of unequal consumption. Quartz staffer Allison Schrager examines the influences affluence or lack thereof have on the concept of well being.
Income inequality in the US has increased in the last few decades, but inequality and well being are different. If everyone is living better than before, the fact that some people are much better off isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The recent inequality has been a problem because, at least in income terms, a few have prospered while most stagnated. But income does not tell us much about living standards. Anecdotally it seems like living standards increased for everyone since the 1970s. Once, hardly anyone had air-conditioning, now everyone has mobile phones. Others argue the poor are struggling like never before.