expanding social rights yet rising economic inequality.
Speaking in itsown voice and on the authority of the task force members alone, the groupdrew conclusions after surveying available evidence about three impor-tant, interlinked areas of concern: citizen participation, government re-sponsiveness, and the impact of public policies on social inequalities andpolitical participation. The core chapters of this book present in-depth re-views of research ﬁndings on these issues. With input and advice fromother task force members, each chapter was prepared by a working groupof scholars listed as the authors of that chapter.This introduction sets the context for detailed explorations of citizenparticipation, government responsiveness, and public policymaking. We begin with evidence about the changing patterns of inequality in theUnited States, and then consider why recent rising economic inequalitymay be of special concern. Although Americans tolerate varied fortunesproduced by the market, they worry when economic disparities threatenequal citizen voice and undermine government responsiveness to theneeds and values of the majority. Americans want their democracy to en-sure and expand equal opportunity for all citizens. The research reviewedin this book speaks to basic concerns about the health and prospects ofU.S. democracy.
EXPANDING RIGHTS AND RISINGECONOMIC INEQUALITY
American society has become both more and less equal in recent decades.Following the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, racial segre-gation and exclusion were no longer legal or socially acceptable. Whitesand African Americans began to participate together in schools and col-leges, the job market, and political and civic organizations. Gender barri-ers have also been breached since the 1960s, with women now able to pur-sue most of the same economic and political opportunities as men. Manyother previously marginalized groups have also gained rights to partici-pate fully in American institutions and have begun to demand—and tovarying degrees enjoy—the dignity of equal citizenship (Skrentny 2002).But as U.S. society has become more integrated across the previous bar-riers of race, ethnicity, gender, and other long-standing forms of social ex-clusion, it has experienced growing gaps of income and wealth. This con-clusion emerges from large bodies of authoritative government andnongovernment data, analyzed by researchers using diverse methodolo-gies.
The critical questions we address here are how the relative share ofincome or wealth going to different segments of American society has
2Inequality and American Democracy