By Alexandra Forter Sirota
Director, Budget & Tax Center
Income inequality has become a central part of the public debate of late as policymakers seek to grapple with an economy that has hollowed out the middle class, threatening the prospects for shared prosperity and economic stability. In North Carolina, income inequality has become endemic over the past three decades, with the top income earners capturing a disproportionate share of income while the vast majority of workers have seen their wages and income stagnate.
Growing inequality is a problem for workers who no longer reap the rewards from their greater productivity. Instead, workers increasingly struggle to survive on stagnating (or falling) wages to meet their basic needs for groceries and housing, and face difficulties investing to support their children’s education and movement up the income ladder. Income inequality can reduce investments in human capital, hamper entrepreneurial innovation, and limit the duration of broader economic growth. It is detrimental to our economy as a whole, and greater public and policymaker attention to the issue couldn’t come soon enough.