WHAT MONEY BUYS: Inequality and the Social Meaning of Income by Lee Rainwater

WHAT MONEY BUYS: Inequality and the Social Meaning of Income

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Rainwater is another of those Harvard professors not content with teaching undergraduates and compiling research data, whose goal is the reform of public policy on a national level. He proposes to solve the problems of poverty and racial discrimination in one blow by means of an integration of the economic and sociological approaches to inequality. Traditional sociology, he argues, has overlooked the forest for the trees in viewing income as a product of other stratification variables such as occupational prestige or educational level. Since ""according to American values, issues of distribution are ultimately supposed to be consensually validated,"" much of this study is devoted to measuring public opinion of income levels and poverty policies. Although he also analyzes earlier Gallup and Roper polls, his surprising conclusions are largely based on his 1971 Boston Social Standards Survey. The results are remarkable for the respondents' modest life aspirations and overall generosity toward aid to the poor -- 78 percent supported a negative tax scheme with a guaranteed income in the five to seven thousand dollar range -- but the details of Rainwater's methodology are unclear. He also makes preliminary suggestions for implementing such a plan, first proposed (subsequently dropped) by McGovern, picked up in a desultory watered-down form by Nixon, then further delayed (according to the author) by partisan jealousies -- a defeat that would come as no surprise to Rainwater's respondents, who blamed the whole economic mess on ""greedy politicians"" anyway. . . .

Pub Date: Aug. 19th, 1974
Publisher: Basic Books