The Simplest Solution to Fixing Wealth Inequality

Tensie Whelan

By Tensie Whelan

The biggest impact will come from improving the system—not trying to clean up after it.

By Tensie Whelan

Capitalism has benefitted a few people a lot in recent years. How can we help the rest?

As a reader of Worth, you’re probably in the one percent. Or maybe the 10 percent. Or maybe you’re in the top 20 percent of earners, but you aspire to join the 1 percent. Here’s one thing you have in common: In any of those scenarios, chances are that you make most of your money in the stock market, real estate and other forms of investment. Your salaried income is just the beginning.

Over the last decade, shareholders like you and me have done very well with the stock market; the Dow Jones has risen from about 8,500 in June 2009—granted, a low point due to the financial crisis, but then you probably bought stocks to take advantage of the bargain shopping—to about 26,000 now. In other words, during a time span when most financial advisors will tell you that your assets should double, your assets have almost tripled.

Yet that same success has led to vast inequities in America, as the richest 10 percent of Americans own 84 percent of the stock and nearly half of Americans don’t own any at all. While the prices of stocks have soared since 2000, average median household income has decreased by 18 percent.  And 46 percent of Americans say they do not have $400 to cover an emergency expense.

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Tensie Whelan is a Clinical Professor of Business and Society and Director of the Center for Sustainable Business.