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Five ProQuest Resources on Economic Inequality

Last week, the AFL-CIO released its annual “CEO-to-worker pay” ratio, which showed that the average S&P 500 company CEO made 373 times the salary of the average production and non-supervisory worker in 2014. And a research paper published earlier in the year by Oxfam shows that by next year, the richest 1% will own more than all of the rest of the world’s population.

“During periods when the very rich took home a much smaller proportion of total income–as in the Great Prosperity between 1947 and 1977–the nation as a whole grew faster and median wages surged.”–Robert B. Reich, Former U.S. Secretary of Labor

For both Republicans and Democrats, one of the key issues emerging in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is economic inequality.  Economists, politicians and others have proposed a wide range of public policy solutions for addressing income inequality. In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama proposed raising the national minimum wage, and shortly after signed an Executive Order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for people working on new federal service contracts. Other solutions include reforming the tax system; strengthening social safety provisions, such as welfare; increasing access to education and healthcare; and strengthening the power of labor unions. Some, such as Economist David Malpass, argue for downsizing the government and suggest that we should aim to raise incomes for all as opposed to trying to reduce the disparity between incomes.

“Americans in the top 1 percent are convenient scapegoats….There’s a backlash and a tendency to see less economic inequality as a solution to all manner of problems. We create simplistic narratives and imagine that punishing the rich will miraculously uplift the poor. This vents popular resentments, even as it encourages self-deception.”–Robert J Samuelson, Columnist, The Washington Post

ProQuest Resources

Economic inequality is a heated issue, promising to be one of the most significant socioeconomic trends of our time. Below I highlight five ProQuest resources to help students understand its possible impact on our societies and economies.

1ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher Leading Issues contain an Economic Policy, U.S. issue, which includes a sub issue on Economic Inequality. Related issues include, but are not limited to, Business Ethics, Federal Government and Economic Policy, Global Financial Crisis, and Minimum Wage. Inside every Leading Issue, students can find an overview on the issue, key definitions, an editorial cartoon or multimedia piece, articles on multiple perspectives to support their research, and more. The Economic Inequality essential question, with supporting pro con questions, asks students the following question: 

Economic Inequality

Screenshot of Economic Inequality Leading Issue, ProQuest SIRS Issues Researcher

2. eLibrary Research Topics offer an assortment of  editorially-created Research Topic pages on Economic Inequality and related issues, including Executive Pay, Global Economic Crisis, Minimum Wage, Poverty, and the Occupy Movement, a protest movement begun in 2011 which brought attention to the growing divide between the 1% and the rest of the population. These pages include links to carefully selected articles, websites, primary source documents, videos and images. Students can find these pages via keyword search or by clicking on the following link on the search page:

eLibrary link

Economic Inequality in the U.S. (see below) is one such Research Topic page:

eLibrary Research Topic Page

Screenshot of an eLibrary Research Topic Page on Economic Inequality in the U.S.

3. CultureGrams  offers reliable, up-to-date daily life and cultural content, including primary source interviews, videos and more. Students researching  Economic Inequality can use it to compare and contrast the economy in different countries. Each country profiled in CultureGrams contains a section on the country’s economy as well as an Average Person infographic that depicts GDP (PPP) per capita and other demographic characteristics of a hypothetical average person of the country. Below is an example of an Average Person infographic for the United States:

Average Person USA Infographic

Screenshot of CultureGram’s Average Person Infographic for the USA.

4. History Study Center,  with its in-depth study units with historical reference material, is an excellent resource for students who want to dig into earlier periods of extreme economic inequality, such as the start of the Great Depression in the late 1920’s, in order to compare with the situation in the world today. Each unit includes both primary and secondary sources, including biographies, maps and video clips.

history study center

Screenshot of a History Study Center Study Unit on The Great Depression, 1929-1939

5. Historical Newspapers (Graphical) enables students to delve into a trove of full-text historical newspaper articles to see how the level of concentration of income has fluctuated throughout its history and examine its impact on societies. Students can access newspaper articles via keyword search or through the timeline or topics tab. Below is an example of a newspaper article from the Great Depression:

newspaper article 1933

Screenshot of Dec. 3, 1933, New York Times article from ProQuest’s Historical Newspapers

We are constantly adding new material to our products. If you have suggestions for new Economic Inequality topics for consideration for our products, feel free to let us know in the comments section below or tweet us at #ProQuest.

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