WORCESTER, MA–A study released Monday by the Institute For Statistical-Data Quantification brings to light "disturbing" new findings regarding the distribution of wealth in America, asserting that "a real, demonstrable economic gap exists between the nation's upper class and lower class, with the monied elite enjoying significantly greater overall wealth than their poorer counterparts."
"These numbers paint a sobering picture for the American working poor," said Institute co-chair Mary Ellen Armbrister, one of the chief coordinators of the eight-year, $7 million research initiative. "The data we've collected clearly illustrates that our nation's economic system is biased against the low-income sector of society. This bias is evident in a wide range of economic indices–from overall earnings to yearly net gains to discretionary household spending–and holds true regardless of a person's age, racial background, gender, or geographic location. Across the board, this disparity appears to be universal."
"This nation's rich appear to enjoy a considerable, unfair economic advantage over their less wealthy counterparts, consistently outearning the working poor in nearly every case," Armbrister said. "Unless something changes, rich people will continue to have more money than the poor."
Among the study's disturbing findings: In all cases in which a poor person was compared to a corresponding wealthy person of double his or her economic standing, the richer person had 200 percent more financial assets. The rich were also found to spend more than the poor on everything from education to housing, and enjoyed significantly more Caribbean vacations than those who could not afford them.
According to the study, of the 1,794 Ferrari Testarossas sold in the U.S. between January 1992 and January 2000, 1,794 were purchased by the rich. Conversely, of the 3,589 used 1974 AMC Gremlins sold during that same period, 3,589 were purchased by the poor. Additionally, ownership of traditionally "rich" luxury items–including sterling-silver tea sets, antique Persian rugs, and priceless collectible art–is a whopping 48,000 percent less common among the poor than the wealthy. Most alarming, a full 100 percent of the 1,200 British butlers currently working in the U.S. are under the employ of individuals living above the poverty line.
The study is expected have a significant impact on the way everyone from policy-makers in Washington to members of the working class thinks about poverty in America.
"For years, our society has fostered a dangerous stereotype, labeling poor people as 'lower-class' just because they don't have any money," said Yale University sociology chair Dr. Noam Reedy. "But if this report's findings are accurate, the reality is just the reverse: They have no money because they are in a lower economic strata."
Daniel Ruthven, director of the American Enterprise Institute, disagreed. "It is misguided to say that the poor have no money due to their disadvantaged status. Clearly, if they did possess capital resources commensurate with those of the wealthy, they would no longer be, strictly speaking, 'poor.'"
Armbrister stressed that it would be premature to draw any final conclusions from the 550-page report, cautioning that "much supplementary research must still be done."
"Yes, we do need more data," she said. "But regardless, it is apparent that a severe gulf exists between rich and poor. And this cannot be mere coincidence. There is clearly an unknown mitigating factor at work here, and I strongly suspect it may be financial in nature."
"The study's implications are clear," Armbrister continued. "We as a society can no longer sit on our hands. Something must be done. Now more than ever, we need greater funding for this ongoing research effort, so that one day we can somehow make sense of the sobering economic chasm separating the monied and unmonied classes in America today."