Help wanted: Must-reads on income inequality and the rich-poor gap

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by John Sutter,

from CNN,

Here are 10 of my picks, in no particular order:

1. “Inequality.Is” – This website from the Economic Policy Institute is the best online primer I’ve found. It explains why inequality is a problem, how it was created and what might fix it.

2. “A Theory of Justice” – The 1971 book by the late John Rawls is often cited as the philosophical basis for opposing income inequality. It’s a dense book, but thought-provoking.

3. “Park Avenue” – A documentary by Oscar winner Alex Gibney. It uses the famous New York avenue as a metaphor for American inequality; Park Avenue is home to both extreme wealth, in Manhattan, and extreme poverty, in the Bronx.

4. “The Great Divergence” – Journalist Timothy Noah argues, as his book’s description says, that growing inequality “may be the most important change in this country during our lifetimes — a drastic, elemental change in the character of American society, and not at all for the better.”

5. “Wealth Inequality in America” – Chances are you’re one of the 6.8 million people who has viewed this YouTube video. It’s based on the work of Harvard’s Mike Norton.

6. “Inequality and New York’s Subway” – A New Yorker interactive, which maps median income levels by subway stops in New York. The power is in its minimalism. Take a look at the 2 train map. It passes through neighborhoods with median incomes of $205,192 and $13,750.

7. “Nickel and Dimed” – A first-person journey by writer Barbara Ehrenreich, who agreed to try to make a living doing jobs that required no higher education or specialized skills.

8. “Born Rich” – Jamie Johnson, from the wealthy Johnson & Johnson family, directed this documentary about his own life and the lives of his super-rich friends and acquaintances. It reveals a fascinating and complicated picture of wealth in modern America.

9. [Untitled letter] – In March 2013, 90 “economists, academics and development experts” sent a letter to a panel tasked by the United Nations with creating a post-2015 development agenda. The experts argue income inequality should be a global priority, in part, because “inequalities threaten our ability to pursue fair and sustainable development as much as they threaten eradication of extreme poverty.”

10. “The Spirit Level” – Written by two epidemiologists, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, this book makes a strong, statistics-based argument that ugly social problems — from obesity to incarceration rates — are associated with unequal societies. Better health and well-being would follow, they argue, if our societies were made to be more equal.

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