Yale School of Management

Yale Political Scientist Jacob Hacker Discusses Income Inequality in the United States

Convening Yale

“The most distinctive feature of American inequality is the rise in incomes at the very top,” Jacob Hacker, Stanley Resor Professor of Political Science and director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University, told students on October 4 at a Convening Yale event. From 1979 to 2000, he said, “growth almost tripled the average household income of the top 1% while leading to relatively modest increases in the lower tiers of the income distribution.”

Hacker joined Anjani Jain, senior associate dean for the MBA program and professor in the practice of management, and Douglas Rae, Richard S. Ely Professor of Management and Professor of Political Science, for a discussion on inequality in the United States, the second of four Convening Yale events focusing on current issues.

Convening Yale brings scholars from throughout the university to Evans Hall to share their research with Yale SOM students.

Hacker said that the rise in income inequality has not been accompanied by an increase in upward mobility, traditionally seen as a fundamental characteristic of American democracy.

“The belief used to be that the United States offset its very high levels of inequality by very high rates of upward mobility, but over the last 25 years we’ve seen an accumulation of evidence [that indicates] that our income mobility has either stayed steady in the face of rising inequality or even declined,” Hacker said, adding that this combination makes the United States unique among its peer nations.

“The United States really stands out among advanced industrial economies,” he said. “This is not just a story that we’re often told about [the effects] of globalization and technological change, because these [peer] countries are also subject to those forces, and in fact many are more globalized—yet none of them have experienced the sharp inward rise at the top 1%. This is a clue that there are certainly some very fundamental indigenous causes to rising inequality that could account for the divergence across rich democracies and the degree of concentration of income at the top.”

Hacker pointed to tax and government policies and the declining power of organized labor in the United States as potential causes for increasing inequality and declining upward mobility.

About the Event

Jacob Hacker, a professor in Yale's Political Science Department and director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University, will visit Yale SOM on October 4. Senior Associate Dean Anjani Jain and Richard S. Ely Professor of Management Douglas Rae will moderate a conversation with Professor Hacker about inequality in the United States.

Convening Yale presents talks by faculty and leaders from throughout Yale University, who share their research and expertise and help students broaden their understanding of an increasingly complex world. The Convening Yale series is made possible through the generous support of the Robert J. Silver ’50 Fund for Innovation in Management Education.

This event is open to the Yale SOM Community.

Speaker Biography

Jacob S. Hacker is Stanley Resor Professor of Political Science and director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University. A regular media commentator and policy adviser, he is a member of the OECD’s High-Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, the director of the Economic Security Index project, and the author or co-author of five books, numerous journal articles, and a wide range of popular writings on American politics and policy.  His most recent book, written with Paul Pierson, is American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper. Previously, the two wrote Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, a New York Times bestseller. He recently received the Heinz Eulau Prize of the American Political Science Association for his 2013 multi-authored article “The Insecure American.”