Income Inequality Reached A New High In The US — Here's How To Fight It

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According to new data the U.S. Census Bureau released on Thursday, income inequality is the worst it's been in more than 50 years. And if you research how to fight income inequality, you'll probably find information about what government officials should be doing to address it. But even if you aren't a politician or government official, there are still lots of little things you can do to help shrink the wealth gap in the U.S. right now.

The Associated Press reported that, according to recent Census Bureau figures, the Gini Index, which measures income inequality on a 0 to 1 scale, increased from 0.482 in 2017 to 0.485 in 2018. Zero is a perfect score and means no inequality exists, and 1 means that one person or group of people has all of the wealth, per the Census Bureau. As the Associated Press noted, the 2018 increase is indicative of a bigger trend, and the wealth gap has been widening for decades now.

There's still a chance that things will improve, especially if the next president prioritizes income inequality. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both running for the 2020 Democratic nomination, have made tax increases for the wealthy a large part of their campaigns, for example. Lawmakers aren't the only ones who can make a change, though. If you want to fight income inequality on your own, here are some easy ways to start:

1. Vote For Progressive Candidates

Because many of the solutions to fixing income inequality are structural, electing politicians who prioritize the wealth gap is definitely important. The Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, a think tank at the University of California in Berkeley, offers recommendations from experts on policies that can help close the wage gap, like expanding tax credits and increasing funding for early education, and you can look for candidates who support these policies.

You can research who's running for local, state, and national elections to find out how they feel about these expert recommendations — and you can also reach out to campaigns directly to learn more about a candidate's position.

2. Call Your Representatives

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Calling your congressional representatives to thank them for supporting wage equality — or voice your concerns if they haven't — is another way to fight income inequality. You can use GovTrack, a website that tracks congressional bills, to keep up with legislation related to income and wages and see whether your lawmakers support it.

3. Volunteer

Volunteering with organizations like Fight for $15, a movement fighting to raise the federal minimum wage to $15, is another option. If you're unsure where to start, check out Inequality.org. It's a website with data, analysis, and opinion pieces about inequality managed by the Institute for Policy Studies, and it has a database of organizations working to close the wealth gap.

4. Tip Your Server

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Tipping people in the service industry might not seem like it'll make a huge difference, but when states like Alabama, Indiana, and New Jersey (and more) are allowed to pay tipped employees as little as $2.13 an hour, tips can have a big impact at the end of the day. As HuffPost points out, generously tipping employees who rely on those tips for a living wage is one way to fight income inequality.

5. Shop At Companies That Pay A Fair Wage

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If the price of a service seems too good to be true, think about whether a company could be undercutting wages to provide such a competitive rate. A 2015 New York Times investigation found that some employees at New York City nail salons said they made only $1.50 an hour, partly because employers wanted to keep the costs of manicures and pedicures as low as possible.

When in doubt, it may be a smart idea to avoid businesses with rates well below industry standards. Ethical Consumer magazine provides feedback on the ethical practices of more than 40,000 brands and products, and it's a good place to start.

6. Donate

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If you're unable to volunteer, you can donate to groups like the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the Center for Economic & Social Justice, and the Center for Economic and Social Rights that work to address wage inequality. Equipping them with the funds they need to operate and advocate is important, and your donation might be tax-deductible. While elected officials are responsible for a lot of the problem-solving, they aren't the only ones who can make a difference.