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Economic inequality and Ferguson

This week, as racially-charged unrest in the town of Ferguson, Missouri continues, the conversation about the relationship between economic inequality and America’s racial chasm has intensified. The New York Times, has broken this down into charts measuring rates of black versus white joblessness, homicide, chronic health issues, and more. While the report highlights certain glimmers of hope—more blacks in executive and political roles, converging levels of life expectancy—by most measures, including a significant racial pay gap and downright stark wealth gap, the conclusion is clear: “The black-white racial divide remains as central to American life as it has been for centuries.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian asserts that the fallout in Ferguson is “the inevitable outcome of economic injustice.”While the author concedes that economic inequality isn’t the driving force behind centuries-old systematic discrimination, minimizing the economic struggle faced by so many African American communities would improve their odds of being able to “grab and wield the share of political and economic power to which they are entitled by birth—by virtue of the fact that they’re citizens of the United States.”

Capping that off is the International Business Times, which quotes St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter David Nicklaus: “If police tactics were the spark that set off the explosion in Ferguson this week, then poverty and hopelessness were the tinder.”

Back to the New York Times: “The Upshot” blog undertook a clever experiment this week, tracking a decade of web search data from counties across America to determine if, and how, economic inequality would affect queries. The results– “a glimpse into the id of our national inequality—showed that health problems, guns, video games and religion were all common search topics in places confronted with greater hardship. The flipside? Places with higher concentrations of wealth tended to exhibit greater interest in tech devices, fitness trends, and boutique baby products.

Finally, again in “The Upshot:” among the poor, women bear the brunt of inequality.

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