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The Essential Question

What are the historical causes of income inequality and what can America do to balance the scales somewhat so that everyone has what they need to survive and thrive in our society?

The 99% - Income Inequality in the United States

In 2008, when the economy collapsed, the tensions between the haves and have nots reached a fever pitch and has been growing steadily ever since.  The first formal manifestation of this tension was the Occupy Wall Street Movement ( which called attention to the so-called "99%", a term that has become synonymous with the average American and stands for the fact that the Top 1% wealthiest people in America control the majority of the wealth in this country and therefore have the power, while the rest of us, the other 99%, scrape to get by.  Here are a few quotes that represent what the Occupy movement is all about:

"Working 67 hours a week and still can't afford to buy school supplies for my daughters.  I am the 99%."

"My wife and I have three kids and don't want to choose between proper health care and putting food on the table.  We are the 99%."

"I work for a company that pays the CEO the average annual salary of its employees every hour.  I am the 99%." 

As you can see from these quotes, the movement focuses on bringing a more level playing field in which hard work is rewarded with financial stability for all, not just for the super rich. 

For this WebQuest, you will take the part of a policy analyst who makes recommendations to the government about legislation.  

1) You will learn about the problem of income inequality and hear some perspectives on how we got to this place and what could be done about it.

2) You will research historical trends in the economy to see if there has ever been a time when the income gap was less that may shed light on possible solutions for today.

3) You will read some recommendations from economists and evaluate their arguments to determine which plan may work best.

4) You will synthesize the information that you learned to develop a policy recommendation to the United States Congress.  The policy statement can be presented as a persuasive essay, a powerpoint presentation, a prezi, in a video, or as a podcast.


The rise of the new global super rich


Task #1

Let's Get Started! 

Watch and take Cornell notes on the video at the bottom of this page and then answer the following questions in paragraph form:

1) What are the main causes of the current income gap in the world?

2) How much of a role have governments played in creating the environment that has allowed this gap to grow?  How much power do governments have to do anything about it?

3) What are your top three recommendations for how to lessen the gap, based on the video?


Other Video Resources

Want more information about income inequality or want to hear different perspectives on the topic?  Check out the playlist of videos below for more information:

The list includes the following videos:

Richard Wilkenson - How economic inequality harms societies

Van Jones - The economic injustice of plastic

Majora Carter - Greening the Ghetto

Bryan Stevenson - We need to talk about injustice