Observations and Thoughts

On interesting stuff in the world

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wealth - Is it really concentrating at the top?

There has been a lot written recently on the subject of income inequality in the U.S. Some of it so dramatic it seems incredible. So I decided to take a look at wealth distribution trends in the U.S. using statistics collected by the IRS covering 1989 - 2004. Here is what I found out.

I plotted number of persons by wealth for each year of available data. (Click the image to enlarge.) To better relate the data to the growing size of the economy and population I plotted fraction of population instead of absolute numbers of persons and fraction of GDP instead of absolute dollar amounts. The units of wealth are millionths of GDP; in today's economy one millionth part of GDP is about $15,000,000.

As can be seen in the graph above, wealth distribution didn't change all that much in the 15 year period. To get a closer look at the tail I stretched the y-axis. (See below.)

As can be seen above, by this measure, the distribution of wealth was actually less concentrated in 2004 than in 1989. If we define "wealthy" to mean someone who owns one millionth of GDP then about one of every 2000 people are wealthy and that fraction remained fairly constant over the period.

Another way to examine this question is to ask how much total wealth belongs to the wealthy. So instead of plotting the number of persons below I have plotted the aggregate wealth held by each "wealth class", that is, the total wealth held by all persons with wealth above a minimum wealth.

It appears that wealth concentration dropped after 1989 into the mid-1990s and then rose dramatically from the mid-1990s until 2001 before falling back in 2004, ending up moderately more concentrated than in 1989. It would be interesting to see how this correlates with stock prices over the period.

The raw data is available here.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Teddy Bear

Kraft and I slid into seats opposite each other at the main campus cafeteria. His tray was loaded up with three platefuls; mine with a sandwich and a cup of yogurt. As he was about to take his first bite, he looked at me across the table.

«What’s up, Hauser? Getting any lately?» Kraft had his usual bemused expression as if the world were always on the verge of a punch line. His shaggy, blond Groucho mustache and disheveled blond hair accentuated the expression.

«Well, you know, Joe, I told you about Marguerite, right?»

«Yeah, so how’s that going? Pretty steamy, right?»

«No, nothing like that … she likes me but …»

«She’s not banging you yet?»

«No, Joe, it’s more like this - I have a thing for her but it’s not mutual. I think I’m in love with her,» I said as Joe’s blue eyes grew wider, «actually, she likes this guy named Bruce who plays in a band,»

«Wait, you are in love with her?» he said as if he had never heard the word before. He couldn't keep from smirking.

«What’s so funny?»

«Oh my god, you sorry fuck, so tell me about this Bruce,» he said and then before I could answer, «WAIT! Don’t tell me. Let me describe him.»

«How? You don’t even know him or do you?» I said.

«No, but Marguerite is a woman and I know women.» I didn't really believe that but there was no harm in listening. Being a few years older than me I allowed the possibility that Kraft could offer some useful advice. «Now, sonny boy,» he continued, «lean back, relax, and prepare to learn,» as he eased into a more comfortable position.

«This Bruce whatever, he plays in a band, you said. OK, he’s tall and skinny,» he continued, closing his eyes as if he were conjuring an image in his mind. «He has long, shaggy, greasy hair, always wears a leather jacket, rides a motorcycle, and, oh yeah, always with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. He doesn’t give a shit about anyone, sucks off his friends and everyone else that will let him, he drinks about twelve beers and does a few ludes, gets fucked up, pukes his guts out et cetera, et cetera.» He stopped to catch his breath.

«Hmm», I said, «that’s about right from what I know except it's a jeans jacket.»

«And,» he continued, «he treats her like crap,» he paused for a moment to punctuate his last sentence, «Am I right?»

A look of real admiration had gradually come over my face while he spoke. «Yeah, wow, that’s right, how did you know all that?»

«Ah, my friend,» he chuckled, «you have much to learn.» He paused to eat for a bit and take a few swigs from his pint milk carton.

«Hauser, you know about the birds and the bees, right?»

«Yeah, I hope so,» I laughed.

«That’s lesson number one. Now let’s move on to lesson number two, the Bad Boy Syndrome. Every woman loves the bad boy. ALL women want the bad boy. You, my friend, are a good boy, unfortunately, and … I can see by your look that you don’t really believe me,» he said to my puzzled and dejected expression, «but look at the bright side, Hauser. She’s not the only babe. Fuckin’ A, go for that roommate of hers.»

«Which one?» I asked.

«The one with the amazing body,» he said gliding his hands through the air to outline a voluptuous female form.

«Oh yeah, Jenny, she’s slept with three of the six guys in my suite.» I said, «Don’t think so.» It was true that she was gorgeous but Jenny was suspiciously perfect : her hair, skin, and curves all flawless like some kind of synthetic female. Or maybe she had grownup on a broad, flat Ohio dairy farm eating only wholesome, organic food, breathing only fresh air, innocently watching the livestock copulating in the fields.

«Fuckin’ A, Hauser, she puts out! That’s great! Go for it!»

«Joe, I told you, I love Marguerite – I can’t get the girl out of my mind.»

Kraft just let out a harumph and looked away shaking his head. «OK, look, Hauser, you’re just making yourself miserable over this girl who’s worshipping this sleazeball. What the hell! Jenny is mucho gusto hot! Explode all over her man!»

«Yeah, yeah,» I started, grinning, «I get your point. But, Joe, it makes no sense. Marguerite’s got to see what a loser he is, how he yanks her around, seeing her only when he wants to, ignoring her, going after other girls right in front of her, he’s …» I paused.

«A bum,» Kraft said, completing my thought.

«Right! It makes no freakin' sense!» I shouted suddenly realizing that other kids in the cafeteria were looking over.

Kraft just smiled, sighed, and began, «OK, he’s a fuckup, right?»


«So he’s needy, right. I mean he’s a mess, his life is a mess, he doesn’t think a day ahead, right, he just lets it happen.»


«And what is it about women that makes them women? I mean emotionally?» Kraft asked.

«They are nicer, more caring … what?»

«Bingo! They are made to take care of other people, specifically helpless little people, but also anyone who’s just helpless, any little kitten, or puppy, or fuckup like Bruce. He stimulates her mommy brain,» Kraft continued sounding like the pre-med student that he was, «then there’s the excitement, the adrenalin, the uncertainty every day, the impulsiveness, … look, imagine them together. They fight, she cries, he yells, she’s scared and upset, her heart is racing, the adrenalin is pumping, you know what that does, right?»

«Not really, what?»

«Bonding, emotional bonding, deep down here,» he pointed to the base of his head, «not up here,» he said pointing to his forehead, «the fear causes the need for protection, for comfort, and who comforts her? He does. Yeah, sure, the pain and the fear and the comfort and the protection all come from the same person. That’s the rational brain talking. But the deep down brain doesn’t work like that. That’s where the effect takes place.»

«Wow,» I said in amazement, «how do you know all this stuff?»

«Not sure, just experience, I guess, but don’t worry, you’ll get there someday,» he said with a wry look on his face.

«OK,» I said taking a deep breath, feeling better because Kraft seemed to know it all, including, hopefully, how I might get together with Marguerite. «So what should I do?»

«Ahh,» he sighed, «there really isn’t an easy way …»

«I don’t care if it’s hard,» I said insistently, «just tell me Kraft, what do I do?»

«First, sure you don’t want to do it with Jenny? Marguerite's cute but ...» He was right again. Marguerite didn't have anything like Jenny's raw sexuality rather she was waifish, stringy, angular, and gawky with straight, black Japanese-girl hair, a round Eastern European face and the ethereal expression of an Indian goddess.

«Yeah, I’m sure.»

«OK, then will you help me out with her?» he asked.

«Sure, don’t know if I can help much but sure, no problem,» I answered.

“Great, and I’ll try to help you out with Marguerite,” Kraft said.


We were walking towards a party at Hillman around 9PM which happened to take us past the main entrance to Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital. At the patient drop-off people were milling around, getting in and out of cars, the exhaust making plumes in the frigid air. A few smokers stood shivering under the fluorescent lights. We had passed by the flood of light around the entrance and were looking into darkness again. Ahead of us a woman was walking in the same direction. She seemed to be lurching as she moved, possibly drunk. As we came upon her we saw that she was sobbing. Each time she convulsed she clutched a teddy bear to her Navy blue pea coat.

«Is everything all right,» I asked realizing how stupid the question was, «can we help you somehow?»

No answer, not even an acknowledgement.

«Lady, what's wrong? Can we help you? Take you somewhere? Call someone for you?» I tried again.

Joe tried in his most soothing voice, «Miss, we can see you're upset. Do you need the police?»

Still no response. For minutes we tried to get her to talk but she just grabbed the teddy tighter and sobbed uncontrollably. Joe looked confused. I felt more confused.

We walked along, the three of us, in the cold and dark. We passed Hillman.

A minute later, Joe said, «Hauser, there's nothing we can do, let's go.» He stopped on the sidewalk.

I paused, then, «Go ahead, Joe, I'm going to walk a little further with her. I'll see you at the party.»

«OK,» he said as he began to turn back.

I walked another hundred feet beside her, anxiety rising inside me. Finally, I yelled, «Lady, please! Let me help you.»

She turned towards me without looking at me and said in an anguished voice, «I'll be OK, go with your friend,» and immediately broke into sobs again.

I stopped cold, stunned. «What the hell should I do,» I thought, my head pounding. I was feeling panicky.

A minute passed. I looked back towards Joe – he was out of sight. The woman was receding into the darkness ahead. I began walking towards her and then stopped again trying to think. I closed my eyes and tried to calm myself ...

I looked ahead - couldn't see her now. I began to run looking right and left in the darkness. Then I noticed the square of light far down the street, a bus shelter against the darkness. As I neared it I saw her sitting on a bench still crying jaggedly.

I crashed onto the bench opposite her, my lungs searing. The fluorescent lights buzzed along with her sobbing and my panting. About ten blocks off the bright green of a city bus was approaching.

As the bus slowed she stood trying to compose herself. She glanced at my feet as she climbed aboard. The pneumatic folding doors shut and it rolled away.

I was left sitting there in the shelter, my head throbbing, waves of nausea in my gut. I thought about the long walk home. There was no way I could go to a party feeling like this. As I stood wearily, I saw the teddy abandoned in a corner. I grabbed it and headed out. But as I walked I began feeling better. The thought of a few beers cheered me. Might be relaxing, I thought. I changed course and headed for Hillman.


The noise and the lights hit me as I walked into Hillman. Kraft was standing to one side of the dance floor gazing at Jenny as she moved to the music. Marguerite was standing in a knot of people radiant as usual. She was obviously the most beautiful woman in the place or was it just me who thought she stood out like Dorothy among the Munchkins? I tried to put on my cool face as I walked towards her but then realized I was till holding the teddy.

«Hello, Evan!» she said with a huge smile that made me feel like melting. She glanced towards the teddy.

«It's a long story,» I began, «Joe and I were walking over here and ...»

«Oh, I know, I heard him telling Jenny all about it. You are the sweetest guy, as always, Evan.»

«Thanks,» I said.

«Evan ... I was wondering ...,»

«What?» I said.

«Well, you're friends with Joe, right?» she said glancing towards him, her eyes twinkling.

A knot rose in my stomach and I looked around for the nearest exit just in case I had to puke.

«So, I was wondering if you could ...»

I felt the softness of the teddy bear's fur as I squeezed it in my hand. I closed my eyes and watched the random lights pulsating in my head, the shrieking singing and thumping loudness jangling my mind. I needed the cold, quiet air again so I scooted towards the door. Once outside the building I leaned against the wall and let myself slide down until I was huddling against the wall, knees against my chest. I tried to let my mind go blank to coax the tension out of my weary self.

I must have fallen asleep or into a trance. The sound of footsteps snapped me back. I sensed someone scooching down beside me and opened my eyes to see Jenny pressing up against me. At first I was stunned but then I put my arm around her and pulled her close. Our two bodies huddled into a tight ball, her perfect cheek touching mine.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Median Income By Gender 1966 - 2007

Over the last 40 years, the composition of the full-time work force changed from about 25% female to about 42% female.

During the same period, median female income almost doubled while male income remained flat.

Source: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/histinc/histinctb.html

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Friday, June 13, 2008


Jacob Graduating from Brown June 2006

Jacob Commencing from Matt Kuenzel on Vimeo.

Laney Graduating from HB June 2008

... coming soon ...