Infographic of the Day: 15 Facts About America's Income Inequality

The rich are getting richer at a pace that leaves everyone behind. And in the long run, that threatens our democracy.

You might not know it, with all the progress we've made as a society in the past 100 years (our first black president, for instance), but America is still an incredibly unequal place. The gaps between classes, sexes, and races are—in many ways—actually getting worse, and the gap between the rich and the poor is larger than at any time in the last 75 years.

This graphic illustrates just a few of the quantifiable ways that our society manifests these various inequalities.


[Click to view full-sized version]

Taken from information provided by The Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality, the graphic—by Kristy Tillman for Objects in Repeat—explains 15 different facts about American inequality that might tweak your worldview a little. For instance, did you know that the average CEO's pay is 1,039 times more generous than that of the average worker?

And it's not as if we've always lived that way. Forty years ago, CEOs were only being paid 39 times that of the average worker. Some companies these days are tying CEO pay to the pay of the least compensated employee at the same company. Clearly not that many.

Or look at the results of a study done in Chicago and Boston in 2001 and 2002: Job applicants with "black" sounding names were far less likely to be called in for job interviews (this was back when there were jobs to interview for):

Looking for a job? Consider changing your name to Kristen or Carrie on your resume. That wouldn't help your insurance situation, though. Children of minorities are far more likely to live without health insurance:

What else? Women also make less than men (though this is improving!) and jobs with higher pay have a smaller percentage of women working at them. Minorities are far more likely to drop out of school, and immigrants are far less likely to receive an education. And though GDP has risen, wages have remained stagnant (except for those CEOs), which has contributed to the top 10% of the wealthiest Americans controlling nearly three-quarters of all the money in America.

Taken individually, there are potential statistical and cultural reasons to explain away each of these stats. Arranged in this order, it's hard not to realize we need to do better to give everyone a little bit more of an even playing field.

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  • Blaize Patrick

    Does the graph "Immigrants and Inequality" include illegal immigrants?

  • Geoffry

    Don't call me racist - this is sincere curiosity - regarding the Callback Infographic; I would be very curious to see the same infographic replacing 'Callback' with 'IQ.' Yes I understand lower income typically means less education, but who are you pointing the finger at? The ones making the callback? 

  • Mike Barrett

    The commentary is wrong
    The statistic is comparing the average for the top 100 highest paid CEOs with the average worker's wages. Facts worth noting: Stanford cites "Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-2002" but draws a graph that continues up to 2005. The statistic does not claim to be comparing the highest paid CEO to THEIR workers. 2000 was a local high, and the statistic came down noticeably in some subsequent years. (which is not to say income inequality is no longer a problem.)

  • Jonas McGee

    Brett it has nothing to do with Fast Company and fact checking all of the data came from the Stanford Poverty center. How about you fact check them yourself.

  • Brett Johson


    As a designer, I just love this FastCoDesign website. You have a lot of compelling imagery and articles. I've set it as my home page for the past couple months.

    I'm growing a bit more disappointed with each article that comes however, because of the lack of any fact checking on a LOT of the information being posted to your website. Just because something is printed somewhere else doesn't make it Gospel. And really it doesn't take but 5 to 10 minutes with a few careful internet searches and simple math to scorch the "facts" that are reported.

    For example, I was alarmed and even angered with the disparity between average CEO's and average workers. The reality is that many of their wages are absolutely ridiculous. However, I implore to search your facts just a LITTLE. Even if the average worker only makes minimum wage, at best there might be 50 to 100 CEO's who might qualify at 1039 times (so this doesn't truly speak about the average CEO as it purports). However, when you check just a little bit further, you'll see that AVERAGE workers at these companies earn fairly good salaries. In fact, now that I've done my research, I challenge you to show me one CEO in the U.S. that truly makes 1039 times more than his company's AVERAGE worker. (Again, I'm not saying their salaries aren't ridiculous)

    Please, you appear to have a lot of insight to share with your visitors, but not doing some EASY research to double check your postings is really disingenuous.

  • Justin Roby

    "Tenure for a third grade teacher is absurd."

    What do you imagine tenure means for a third grade public school teacher? It's not the same as tenure for a college professor.

    All tenure means at the public school level is that there must be due process for you to be fired. Surely, after four or five years of service, with good evaluations, a teacher deserves that sort of protection?

  • Chris Reich

    I feel alone in the dark when I preach that the US needs to urgently focus on three key problems:
    1. Bring ethics back to business and government. People need to do the 'right thing'. Greed is driving nearly all decisions in business and government is flirting with corruption.
    2. Rebuild the US manufacturing base. We CAN make televisions here in the US, can't we? My god, I can't find a dog toy made in the USA---surely that is within our vast capability.
    3. Fix the broken education system. We need to stop blaming teachers for every problem BUT we also need to hold that very expensive and crucial segment of our economy accountable. Tenure for a third grade teacher is absurd. The education system must accept some responsibility for their product and quit scapegoating society.

    Three things. It might be too late.

    Chris Reich