From Race, Partisanship, and the Rise of Income Inequality in the United States, by Paul Pierson, APSA, 2016
In this piece written for Politics Now, a publication of the American Political Science Association (the largest professional organization for political scientists in the world), Dr. Pierson lays out a compelling argument that informs us about rising inequality in the United States. According to Dr. Pierson, not only will wealth concentration split the United States into “haves” and “have-nots” but it will also further exacerbate race relations during a time of profound demographic changes. By 2044, demographers predict that for the first time in the nation’s history the non-Hispanic white population will no longer possess a majority position. In the ensuing years, the country will become increasingly multi-cultural, multi-racial, and multi-ethnic. Wealth and income projections, however, suggest that non-Hispanic whites will retain the foremost position on the economic ladder.
For purposes of this Project Assignment, let’s dispense with some formalities that will help us consider this provocative information with open minds:
- There are great variations within all populations in the United States in wealth, status, beliefs, and experiences. So it is challenging to generalize about non-Hispanic whites, African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, or other groups. Let us all acknowledge this fact as we enter into our discussions.
- Wealth, regardless of who possesses it, confers status, access, and power.
- The ideals on which the nation was founded are not reserved for any group of Americans but are promised to everyone. These ideals, as set forth in the Preamble to the Constitution, provide the “glue” that ostensibly holds the social fabric of the nation together. Today, we are witnessing the fraying of this social fabric in ways that could threaten the viability of the American experiment.
- Politics is about power, how it is acquired, employed, and maintained. Elected officials will go to great lengths to keep themselves in power, even if in doing so their tactics are contrary to the values of the country. The only job security an elected official has is to win reelection.
After a close reading of this first section of this article, each student will prepare and submit an essay that does the following:
Essay Part A (10 points):
In about 250 words (this is about one page, double-spaced, 12-point font, one-inch margins), please describe in your own words how this passage of Dr. Pierson’s article relates to what you have learned about American politics so far in Module 1. Be sure to make clear connections in this part of your essay.
Essay Part B (5 Points):
In about 150 words (this is about half a page, double-spaced, 12-point font, one-inch margins), write about what you have learned so far that you may not have known before or that is different from what you thought you knew.
To do well on this first installment of the Project Assignment, be sure you have followed instructions carefully and proofread for writing errors. I recommend using the free version of to help you identify and correct errors.