The Rise of (Concerns about) the Elite

Two vaunted periodicals, The Atlantic and The Economist, contain stories in their most recent issues about the rise of an elite. Both begin with the backlash that occurred against bankers in particular in both the U.S.A. and the U.K. — both of whom have encouraged the financial sector to gain power out of proportion to its actual utility — but from there The Atlantic article goes on to worry about the rise of a global elite and The Economist article goes on to worry about how inequality is rising in the industrial powerhouses of the U.S.A. and China but falling globally. Just as interesting is The Economist’s use of the term cognitive elite in the article title, “The rise and rise of the cognitive elite,” which they discuss a bit in the last third of the article. Here’s a snipped:

As technology advances, the rewards to cleverness increase. Computers have hugely increased the availability of information, raising the demand for those sharp enough to make sense of it. In 1991 the average wage for a male American worker with a bachelor’s degree was 2.5 times that of a high-school drop-out; now the ratio is 3. Cognitive skills are at a premium, and they are unevenly distributed.

The Economist article has a nice bit of statistical information:

In America, for example, in 1987 the top 1% of taxpayers received 12.3% of all pre-tax income. Twenty years later their share, at 23.5%, was nearly twice as large. The bottom half’s share fell from 15.6% to 12.2% over the same period.

I graphed it just for fun: