Discusses specific facts and their alternative interpretations of the inequality of personal incomes in the United States. Logic is presented for adopting one conceptual and statistical approach in measuring and analyzing income disparity. Empirical evidence from 1939 to 1970 is assembled, including income inequality among the fully employed and income disparities by race and sex. Although cyclical behavior of income inequality has been plausibly linked to aggregate indices of demand, economic explanations of secular change in income inequality are less satisfactory. After decades of confidence in the egalitarian redistributive influence of the U.S. economy, a reappraisal of progress toward equalizing economic opportunities may be warranted.
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