Friday, May 30, 2014

Free for 1 Month: The Journal Science on the Science of Inequality

From Science:

The science of inequality 
What the numbers tell us
In 2011, the wrath of the 99% kindled Occupy movements around the world. The protests petered out, but in their wake an international conversation about inequality has arisen, with tens of thousands of speeches, articles, and blogs engaging everyone from President Barack Obama on down. Ideology and emotion drive much of the debate. But increasingly, the discussion is sustained by a tide of new data on the gulf between rich and poor. 

This special issue uses these fresh waves of data to explore the origins, impact, and future of inequality around the world. Archaeological and ethnographic data are revealing how inequality got its start in our ancestors (see pp. 822 and 824). New surveys of emerging economies offer more reliable estimates of people's incomes and how they change as countries develop (see p. 832). And in the past decade in developed capitalist nations, intensive effort and interdisciplinary collaborations have produced large data sets, including the compilation of a century of income data and two centuries of wealth data into the World Top Incomes Database (WTID) (see p. 826 and Piketty and Saez, p. 838). 

It is only a slight exaggeration to liken the potential usefulness of this and other big data sets to the enormous benefits of the Human Genome Project. Researchers now have larger sample sizes and more parameters to work with, and they are also better able to detect patterns in the flood of data. Collecting data, organizing it, developing methods of analysis, extracting causal inferences, formulating hypotheses—all of this is the stuff of science and is more possible with economic data than ever before. Even physicists have jumped into the game, arguing that physical laws may help explain why inequality seems so intractable (see p. 828)....MORE 
Some of the related articles: 

The ancient roots of the 1%
Don't blame farming. Inequality got its start among resource-rich hunter-gatherers. 
Our egalitarian Eden
Today's economic inequality goes back thousands of years but in evolutionary time it is relatively recent. 
Physicists say it’s simple
If the poor will always be with us, an analogy to the second law of thermodynamics may explain why.


HT: Columbia's Chris Blattman