PULLMAN, WASHINGTON – Rome lasted a thousand years, but fell to Germanic barbarians. China’s last dynasty capitulated in 1911 to Sun Yat-sen after constant civil unrest. Since the beginning of time, empires have risen and they’ve fallen, but never has a civilization been closer to collapse or widespread revolution than the United States is today, according to researchers.
That’s what a study released November 15 by 14 universities including Washington State University stated. Disparities between the rich and poor have rarely, if ever, been higher in any country or civilization, in any time of history, researchers discovered.
Researchers’ evaluation models included data from 63 archeological sites, which compared house sizes to which a term called Gini coefficients were assigned. The term is a common measure of inequality developed more than a century ago by Italian statistician and sociologist Corrado Gini. In theory, a country with equal wealth distribution would equal zero, while a country with all wealth in one household would receive a score of one.
America received a score of .80, according to the study. A separate study by Allianz Global Wealth Report puts the United States at .81, and other researchers have pegged the US at .85.
“The U.S. probably has the highest wealth inequality of any developed country right now,” Tim Kohler, Ph.D, of Washington State University said about the study.
China is currently rated lower at .73, according to the study.
The model researchers used put the highest Ginis of the ancient world at .59, which is close to current day in Greece at .56, and Spain at .58.
Societies with high inequality have low social mobility, Kohler said. Mobility rates have fallen from 90 percent for U.S.-born children in 1940 to 50 percent for children born in the 1980s.
North America is listed as the richest region in the world at the end of 2015, with average per capita assets coming to EUR 152,510, while Latin America has the lowest net financial assets of EUR 2,840 per capita, according to the 2016 Allianz Global Wealth Report.
The wealth category of the world’s five billion people has shrunk from 80 percent since 2000, to 69 percent in 2015. The middle class in developed countries, primarily Italy, Ireland, Greece, USA, Japan, and the United Kingdom, is shrinking, according to the Global Wealth Report.
“The situation is probably best described as a paradox of ‘inclusive inequality,’” the Global Wealth Report stated. “More people are participating in average wealth, while at the same time, the tip of the wealth pyramid is moving further and further away from this average, and simultaneously getting smaller and smaller.”
“People need to be aware that inequality can have deleterious effects on health outcomes, on mobility, on degree of trust, on social solidarity – all of these things,” Kohler said in the study. “We’re not helping ourselves by being so unequal.”
Declining Gini scores are also linked to increase in violence, the study reported.
“We could be concerned in the United States, that if Ginis get too high, we could be inviting revolution, or we could be inviting state collapse. There are only a few things that are going to decrease our Ginis dramatically.”
Although there has been a 25 percent increase in the rich class across the world, the middle classes in developed countries are shrinking, the Global Wealth Report stated.
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