The Atlantic

How Individual Actions Affect Economic Inequality

Thinking micro about a problem that’s macro
Source: Matt Cardy / Getty

Writing last year, the New York University sociologist Guillermina Jasso used two words to describe economic inequality in America: “high” and “increasing.”

The most common proposals for turning those descriptors around are big-picture government policies—things like hiking the minimum wage or raising tax rates for the highest earners. But in a paper last year, Jasso, who has been publishing academic work on inequality for four decades, sought a scientific answer to the question of what individuals living in unequal societies can do to mitigate the problem themselves (aside from voting for politicians with similar intentions).

Jasso’s method was to think through what kinds of concrete actions would reduce inequality as it’s measured by various mathematical formulas. As such,or , but rather proposes some basic principles for assessing how one’s actions might, however marginally, affect the inequality of a given society.

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