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The Forgotten Americans: An Economic Agenda for a Divided Nation, Isabel Sawhill

Reviewed by Mark Joseph Stelzner

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Income inequality in the United States has been increasing rapidly over the last 40 years. This, paired with weak economic growth, means that many Americans have been left behind. In her book, Forgotten Americans: An Economic Agenda for a Divided Nation, Isabel Sawhill proposes a “radical centrist” response of promoting social responsibility, increased vocational and private sector training, and social insurance reform. While inequality is an important issue that needs an immediate response, Sawhill misdiagnoses both the economic and political roots of inequality and proposes a narrow solution that ironically is not radical but parallels much of the policy that created current inequality and Trumpism.

Sawhill argues that the technological change which has benefited skilled workers and an education system that has failed to elevate many into the skilled ranks is the cause of the current rise in inequality. While this explanation is often repeated by economists and politicians, much empirical evidence belies its explanatory powers. For example, the increase in income inequality is hyperconcentrated, with the rise in the income shares of elite subgroups, such as the top 1.0 and 0.1 percent, inside the larger group of skilled workers, driving the rise in inequality. Also, the increase in wage income inequality is an Anglo-Saxon phenomenon; cont

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