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Top Heavy: The Increasing Inequality of Wealth in America and What Can Be Done About It Paperback – February 1, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-1565846654 ISBN-10: 1565846656 Edition: Exp Upd Su

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 116 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The; Exp Upd Su edition (February 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565846656
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565846654
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,122,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Wolff's analysis slices through the fog about the supposed health of the American economy through the go-go '80s and '90s. -- James Ledbetter, New York Newsday

Wolff's calm, scholarly prose contains a powerful warning for all of us. -- Barbara Ehrenreich

About the Author

Edward N. Wolff is a professor of economics at New York University, the author of many books and articles on economics and tax policy, and the managing editor of the Review of Income and Wealth.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By James B. Delong on November 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
Ed Wolff's book--a review of his earlier work on wealth, with some new additional material added--documents that the United States today is a more unequal society than at any time since the Great Depression.
According to his numbers--which are lousy, but are nevertheless the best we have or are likely to acquire-- in 1929 the richest one percent of households had about 41 percent of the economy's total wealth. But the leveling associated with the Depression and World War II had reduced the richest one percent's share to about 22 percent by 1945. Thereafter, the leveling trend continued. By the mid-1970s, the richest one percent's share--including the implicit value of rights and claims on the Social Security system. of total wealth was down to 13-16 percent of the economy's total wealth. But by the late 1980s, the richest one percent's' wealth was back up to 21 percent of the economy's total wealth. And scattered pieces of information suggest that the trend toward increasing inequality has continued into the 1990s.
Increasing inequality is not due to a surge in entrepreneurial activity: economic growth was unusually low in the 1980s (in substantial part because of the drain on investment resulting from the Reagan deficits). The fortunes made were, for the most part, not to any unusual extent the by-product of especially rapid economic growth.
Rising inequality is cause for alarm for two reasons: First, in a time of high inequality politics becomes nasty and democracy becomes less secure and stable. Second, an unequal economy--an economy in which the chances of striking it rich are larger and the chances of failing to maintain middle-class incomes are larger--fails to provide adequate social insurance. Risk-averse people would, if given a choice when young, overwhelmingly prefer to live in an equally rich overall but more equally distributed society.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David Group on February 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
This study of the distribution of wealth in America is disheartening indeed. Though it only surveys the economic scene until 1989 (a postscript brings it up to 1992), it is not hard to believe that things haven't changed much since then. Basically, it concludes that the gap between the rich and the poor has increased to a greater extent than at any time since before the Great Depression, and that the gap between the rich and the poor is greater than in most European countries.
Not only does this book outline the problem in detail, but it proposes a restructured tax system similar to that existing in many European countries, a tax system which would ease the burden on the poor, while placing little extra tax burdens on the rich-- and still raise billions more in tax revenue. Though this book is filled with statistical analyses, it is slim (fewer than a hundred pages), and those not mathematically inclined can skip to the conclusions here and there, which are written in clear, understandable prose. Well worth reading, and certain to be a wake-up call to anyone who has suspected that the middle class has been disappearing in this country.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
No feature of American political life astonishes me more than the almost complete silence of politicians and journalists and the media concerning the most pressing problem is contemporary American life: the dramatically increasing inequality between the haves and have nots in the United States. According to Federal Reserve figures the share of the national wealth held by the top 1% of the population has risen from 20$ in 1979 to 37% by 1997. I have not seen figures since that date, but after Clinton continued the deregulation started by Reagan and continued by Bush 41 and then Bush 43 engaged on an inconceivably lavish give-back program in the nation's history, it would be impossible to imagine that the figures have improved since then. What is the figure now? 40%? 45%? 48%? Here is what frightens me: Edward Wolff published the revised version of his novel in 2002, submitting the manuscript to the publishers before Bush's incredible largesse to the rich took place in 2002. The problem was, in Wolff's view (and in the view of most responsible economists), pressing and dire in 2001. How much worse has it gotten since a string of tax cuts and policy changes that have unquestionably have made a serious problem vastly worse?

Wolff's concern in this well-documented work are twofold: first, he wants to delineate the nature of the economic inequality that currently pervades the United States to a degree found in no other developed country; second, he wants to suggest one way partially to rectify the problem: for the United States to adopt a wealth tax similar to one that exists in several other nations.

Most people, when they think of economic inequality, think in terms of income inequality.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great book, but it loses all credibility because one page said the Gini Coefficient was at 0.84 in America, but the Gini Coefficient has never been that high in the recorded history of America. So while everything is seemingly sound, I am leery about citing this book in a master's or doctoral thesis because of that very noticeable mistake.
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By J. Saladino on January 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a must read for anyone interested in economic inequality. Excellent social science and readable.
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