Race, Racism and the Law 
Speaking Truth to Power!!

 

Widening Gap Between Rich and Poor

                   Complete Survey:  Race Relations 2011

 

UNITS
Intro:  Institutional Racism                                                    x
01 Race and Racism                                                    x
02 Citizenship Rights                                                     x
03 Justice                                                     x
04 Basic Needs                                                     x
05 Intersectionality                                                    x
06 Worldwide                                                     x

   
 
  Web Editor:
  Vernellia R. Randall
Professor of Law
The University of Dayton
Web Editor
   
 
China’s Report on US Human Rights Record in 2000
Information Office of China's State Council

 

III. Widening Gap Between Rich and Poor and Deteriorating Situation of Worker's Economic and Social Rights

The latter part of the 20th century was the most economically prosperous period in US history, with the economic growth rate rising steadily 118 months by the end of 2000.

However, the gap between the rich and poor widened and the living standards of the laborers went from bad to worse. Pressing issues such as poverty, hunger and homelessness proved difficult to solve.

The gap between the rich and poor in the United States grew at the same pace as the economic growth. Statistics show that the richest 1 percent of the US citizens own 40 percent of the total property of the country, while 80 percent of US citizens own just 16 percent.

Since the 1990s, 40 percent of the increased wealth went into the pockets of the rich minority, while only 1 percent went to the poor majority.

From 1977 to 1999, the after-tax income of the richest 20 percent of American families increased by 43 percent, while that of the poorest 20 percent decreased 9 percent, allowing for inflation. The actual income of those living on the lowest salaries was even less than 30 years ago.

An article in the February 21, 2000 issue of US News and World Report pointed out that the average income of the richest 5 percent of families in 1979 was 10 times of that of the poorest 20 percent of families. In 1999, the income gap had been enlarged to 19 times, ranking first among the developed countries, and setting a record since the Bureau of Census of the United States began studying the situation in 1947.

The income of the executives of the largest US companies in 1992 was 100 times that of ordinary workers, and 475 times higher in 2000.

According to an assessment by the US journal Business Week in August 2000, the income of chief executive officers was 84 times that of employees in 1990, 140 times in 1995, and 416 times in 1999.

A survey shows that the real income of the one-fifth richest of the families in Silicon Valley has increased 29 percent since 1992, while the real income of the one-fifth poorest of the families in the valley decreased during most of the 1990s, and the current income for the poorest has bounced back to the same level in 1992, with the employees at the lowest rank now earning 10 percent less than a decade age.

A great number of Americans suffer from poverty and hunger. According to the statistics of the US government, over 32 million citizens, or 12.7 percent of the total population of the country, live under the poverty line. The incidence of poverty is higher than in the 1970s, and higher than in most other industrialized countries.

An investigation by the US Department of Agriculture in March 2000 showed that 9.7 percent of American families did not have enough food, and at least 10 percent of families in 18 states and Washington D.C. often suffered from hunger and malnutrition.

In 1998, 37 million American families did not have enough food. In the state of New Mexico, 15.1 percent of the families were under threat of hunger.

The number of homeless Americans has continued to increase. A study in the mid-1990s showed that 12 million US citizens were or had been at some time homeless. According to a survey of 26 large cities conducted by the Conference of Mayors, the urgent demand for housing increased in two-thirds of the cities in 1999 over previous years.

A report in The New York Times of July 9, 2000, said that housing in New York was in the shortest supply of recent decades. More than 130,000 families in the city were waiting for public housing at that time, and homeless shelters sometimes had to receive 5,000 families and 7,000 individuals for a night.

Serious infringements upon worker's rights have been reported. Compared with other developed countries, the working hours of laborers in the United States are the longest, while their social security benefits and rights are the worst. According to a report in US News and World Report in March 2000, the average working time of US citizens was 1,957 hours annually, longer than in other developed countries.

In Manhattan, about 75 percent of the people with high-level education aged between 25 and 32 years old work more than 40 hours a week. In 1977, only 55 percent of the people worked the same amount of time.

A newly published book in the United States said that some female cashiers and workers on production lines have to wear protective undergarments because they are not allowed to take time to go to the toilet.


The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions submitted a report to the World Trade Organization in July of 1999, saying that the rights to organize and strike were not guaranteed in US labor laws.

When employers decide to break up or prevent the establishment of trade unions, laborers have no legal redress. Only 13 percent of US workers have joined trade unions.

More than 7 million of the 14 million functionaries in the state and local governments have no right to collective negotiation, not to mention the right to strike.

Millions of workers, including farm laborers, domestic workers, and low-level supervisors, were explicitly excluded from protection under the law guaranteeing the right of workers to organize.

In the 1950s, hundreds of workers were retaliated by employers for exercising their right for association. By the 1990s, the number climbed to 20,000.

Worker's rights and social security cannot be guaranteed for U. S. workers. A study by the US Department of Energy in 2000 showed that the incidence of cancer among workers in nuclear weapons production was much higher than workers in other industries due to exposure to harmful radiation and chemical substances.

Since the end of World War II, 22 forms of cancer have been diagnosed among the 600,000 workers in 14 nuclear plants in California, Washington and other states; this incidence rate was several times that found in ordinary factories.


The US government treads lightly on this issue until it was exposed by media in recent years. Under public pressure, the US government had to acknowledge the mistake.

About 30 million US citizens had no social security eight years ago, and the figure has increased to 46 million currently. The British newspaper Financial Times reported on October 25, 2000, that 12.3 percent of US citizens had no medical insurance 20 years ago, and the rate has increased to 15.8 percent now, or one out of every six Americans.

The education situation in the United States is surprisingly poor. According to a report in USA Today on November 29, 2000, illiteracy is still a serious problem in such a highly developed country.

One in five high school graduates cannot read his or her diploma; 85 percent of unwed mothers are illiterate; 70 percent of Americans arrested are illiterate; 21 million Americans cannot read.

According to a child protection foundation, 71 percent of fourth graders are not at the education level they ought to be. College tuition has grown faster than the increase of middle class families' income. The dropout rate among college students has risen to 37 percent.

Statistics from the US Census Bureau show that the income of middle class families increased only 10 percent from 1989 to 1999, while the college tuition increased 51 percent during the same period. The average college tuition in 1999 was 8,086 US dollars, accounting for 62 percent of the income of low-income families.

The average tuition fee of private colleges was 21,339 US dollars in 1999, up 34 percent over 1989, accounting for 162 percent of the income of poor families, but only making up for four percent of the income of rich families. More than 30 million low-income families could not afford to send their children to community colleges.

 

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Australia                                                    x
Caribbean                                                    x
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Middle East                                                    x
North America                                                    x
South America                                                    x

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Oppressed Groups                                                     x
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Same level:
American Democracy - A Myth ] Rampant Violence and Arbitrary Judicial System ] [ Widening Gap Between Rich and Poor ] Gender Discrimination & Ill Treament of Children ] Racial Discrimination Previals - Minorities Ill Treated ] Infringment of Human Rights of Other Countries ] Conclusion ]
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Parent Level:
The US and the Crime of Genocide Against Native Americans ] NorthAmerica/UnitedStates03.htm ] The Thirteenth Amendment and Slavery in a Global Economy ] China's Report on US Human Rights Violation (2000) ] Torture in the United States ] United States attacks and Incarcerates Its "Race" Problem! ]
Units:
[Race and Racial Groups] [Citizenship Rights]  [Justice and Race] [Patterns of Basic Needs] [Intersectionality Issues] [Human Rights]

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Vernellia Randall. All Rights Reserved
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Racism and GeoPolitical Regions


Thanks to Derrick Bell and his pioneer work: 
Race, Racism and American Law
(1993).