Financial inequality is worsening in the United States, but many people don’t know how bad it is.
That’s what professor Paul Leighton told a packed crowd at Tuesday night’s lecture in the Student Center ballroom.
“People wildly underestimate how much the rich have,” Leighton said. “This is basic knowledge for democracy. We should know who owns the economy and how much they own.”
Leighton teaches a variety of criminal justice classes at Eastern Michigan University and is the co-author of “The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison.”
His lecture was the second in the EMU Honors College’s seven-part Star Lecture series on the manifestations of poverty.
According to Leighton, financial inequality has been increasing almost continuously since 1917.
“There’s more inequality than you think,” Leighton said, adding that more than 42 million Americans live in poverty, the highest it’s been in 50 years, and that nearly 1 in 4 children in the US now grow up in poverty.
Leighton also talked about the large difference between the mean and median incomes of Americans and how many didn’t know – and were subsequently shocked to discover – what percentage of the country’s wealth was held by its richest individuals.
“The current system doesn’t meet with our expectations or ideals,” Leighton said.
Student response to the lecture was generally positive.
“I thought it was really informative,” said Brianna Mosher, an EMU freshman majoring in nursing.
Others felt it didn’t delve into the causes of the problem.
“It was interesting, but its stuff you know already,” undecided freshman Ryan Katon said.
The EMU Honors College’s next lecture will take place on Oct. 22 with professor Linda Williams.
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