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  • 12.21.15

The 1% Are Winning: 2015 In Income Inequality

The average American worker earns less today than 40 years ago. The average CEO makes 350 times more than the average worker. Something’s got to give.

In 2015, in the United States and Europe, it’s been impossible to escape the problem of rising income inequality. Though it’s been a trend for a long time, this year, the public seemed more aware than ever that income inequality could be the “defining challenge of our time,” as President Obama put it. Is the American Dream dead, we’ve wondered?

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The data gives every indication that, if it’s not dead yet, it’s limping weakly. The average American actually makes less than he or she did 40 years ago in real terms. Corporate CEOs now make more than 350 times more than their workers, the highest levels ever (while many companies don’t even pay their taxes). The top 1% now makes 17.5 times the median income in America, up from about six times in 1979. And more Americans live in high-poverty areas than ever in history.

All hope is not lost. In a series of stories in 2015, we covered what solutions to income inequality could look like. From better affordable housing policies to simply giving poor people cold hard cash, the future doesn’t have to be so bleak. The question, which will be a major issue in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, is whether we’ll actually do something about it.

Read our best and most popular stories that explore the nature and implications of the gap between the rich and the poor below.

1: The American Dream Is Dead: Here’s Where It Went

The U.S. ranks among the lowest of developed countries for upward mobility, despite clinging to the mythology of Horatio Alger.

Mike McQuade for Fast Company

2: 4 Things You Probably Know About Poverty That Bill and Melinda Gates Don’t

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To fix global poverty, you first need to acknowledge where it comes from.

Don Mammoser via Shutterstock

3: The Average American Worker Earns Less Today Than 40 Years Ago

It’s not just unemployment that matters. Many full-time workers take home less money, after inflation, than in decades.

Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

4: 15 Companies That Paid Zero Income Tax Last Year (Despite $23 Billion In Profits)

Due to completely messed up U.S. tax policies, some even got a rebate check.

5: These Photos Will Take You On A Trip Inside The World Of The 1%

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A look at what extreme wealth means at a time when fewer and fewer people can even comprehend it.

PAOLO WOODS & GABRIELE GALIMBERTI—INSTITUTE

6: The Biggest And Boldest Ideas For How To Stop Rising Inequality

Achieving a more fair society is a defining challenge of our time. In 12 stories, we present an in-depth look at the scope of the issue and the radical, creative, and smart solutions at hand.

John Gomes for Fast Company

7: Forget The Redistribution Of Wealth: Let’s Redistribute Neighborhoods

Where you grow up shapes your adult well-being, especially if you’re poor—which is why we should worry that communities are more segregated than ever.

Chrissy Curtin for Fast Company

8: How To Fight Poverty? It’s Simple: Give Cash To Poor People

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Experts don’t know what a poor person needs. But guess who does? Poor people.

Eric Chow for Fast Company

9: The Story Of How Income Inequality Has Exploded In America

Technology, globalization, and political choices all play a role. The current debate is over how much of each. What’s at stake is our future.

Eric Palma for Fast Company

10: Do You Feel Poor? Use The Wealthometer To See If You’re As Rich As You Think

Most people are bad at estimating where they fall on the wealth spectrum, and that’s a barrier to creating new policies that grapple with inequality.

Mads Perch/Getty Images

11: The 1% Now Owns Half Of All The Wealth In The Entire World

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While wages stagnate, stock prices rise and the rich get richer.

12: The New Redistribution: 5 Radical Ideas For Reversing Income Inequality

Should everyone get a minimum inheritance at birth? How about a government-guaranteed income or job? In the face of a growing income gap, we may need to get revolutionary.

Thomas Pitilli for Fast Company

13: What The 2016 Presidential Candidates Talk About When They Talk About Inequality

For all the talk from both sides of the aisle, we have the makings of another mostly meaningless election buzzword.

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About the author

Jessica Leber is a staff editor and writer for Fast Company's Co.Exist. Previously, she was a business reporter for MIT’s Technology Review and an environmental reporter at ClimateWire.

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