Literary journalist and author.
The widening gap between rich and poor is the central focus of the Occupy movement, and one of the most press- ing issues in the upcoming presidential election. Contrary to how it may feel on the ground, however, the gap is widening not because of spiraling poverty, but because of increas- ing wealth. From 1979 to 2007, the income of the richest 1 percent of American households increased by 224 percent, with the income of the richest .1 percent increasing by 390 percent; conversely, over the same period of time, the bottom 90 percent of Americans experi- enced income growth of 5 percent. This period of growing inequality has challenged sociologists, since many of the traditional barriers to wealth and status such as class, gender and race, have become more permeable. Today’s elite look different from those of the 1960s. What, then, is happening?