A third dynamic widening income disparities is in some ways the most inconvenient of all: the collapse of intact families. The explosion of out-of-wedlock births and of children living outside of two-parent households has widened economic disparities of all kinds, including income.
The reason is straightforward. The role that human and social capital plays in helping a person generate income in an advanced economy has increased over the last half a century. And over that same time, the primary institution for inculcating human and social capital has badly weakened.
Social scientists routinely find that individuals raised in intact families are generally better equipped to thrive in the economy. Today’s 99% is teeming with tens of millions of Americans who were not raised in a stable home environment, and their earnings potential is compromised as a result.
The problem of family breakdown doesn’t lend itself to easy fixes. And its cultural roots run quite deep at this point. But it’s a safe bet that in the several months they occupied Zuccotti Park and other public spaces, not one new idea was raised by Occupiers that would help arrest this driver of increasing income inequality.