This Site Tells How Much You're Underpaid

photo illustration of workers from various professions in front of stack of moneybagsInequality makes a lot of people mad, but it's hard to know where to direct that anger. It's so complicated. Is it because of technology? Outsourcing? The decline of unions? A broken-down educational system? The rise of women? The decline of men? Immigrants? Illuminati? And how do you, as a single human being, fight a complex array of interrelated, systemic abstractions?

To solve this, a handful of economists, programmers and designers labored away for a year and half. The result is an interactive website, launched Monday by the Economic Policy Institute, called Its goal: to teach people about inequality in America, and to make them so mad they might do something about it.

"A lot of people have been thinking about inequality, and what it means for them," explains Elise Gould, one of the economists at the liberal think tank who worked on the site, with help from the information visualization firm Periscopic, and a grant from the Ford Foundation. "We wanted to show what we know inequality means for people on a personal level."

More:Gaping Inequality: CEO Earns 1,795 Times The Average Worker

First, the site asks you how you'd like money in America to be distributed, and then guess how it actually is. (In a 2011 study in which respondents were asked to pick unlabeled pie charts representing different wealth distributions, the vast majority of people said that they wanted to live in a country with a wealth distribution like Sweden's.)

Then the site has you plug in some details about yourself, to show you how you fit on the American income spectrum. As a white female between the ages of 25 and 34, with a bachelor's degree, I'm told that my average salary is $44,985 a year. If I were male, I'd be making over $10,000 more, if I were black I'd be making $3,500 less, and if my wages had risen at the pace of worker productivity over the past few decades, my salary would be $24,000 higher.

OK, I'm a little mad.

Then the site goes some into context. Why and how did this happen? Outsized salaries in the financial sector, the shrinking minimum wage, and an increasingly less progressive tax system, to name a few, illustrated at by some pretty graphics -- and with some handy links if you're spurred to action.

Gould says that she really hopes the site does a good job of myth-busting, particularly when it comes to the idea of the American Dream. "A lot of people think inequality isn't that big of a deal, because we have equality of opportunity in this country. So it doesn't matter; everyone has an equal shot of being part of the 1 Percent," she explains. "That's just simply not true."

(Or as John Steinbeck once said, in America "the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.") As the graph below shows, the more unequal a country, the less chance you actually have of improving your lot:

Play around on yourself. Never has something so infuriating been so pretty! Except for maybe Gwyneth Paltrow, Apple Maps, and Stargazer Lilies (a species of flower that my colleague tells me smells unpleasantly like Novocain).

Why do the mega-rich work at all? See the slideshow below:
The Mega-Rich: Why I Still Work
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This Site Tells How Much You're Underpaid

Despite four decades of chairing or CEO-ing media companies, Alan Meckler, 65, has no plans to quit. Now CEO of media empire WebMediaBrands, and with a net worth of over $400 million, according to Forbes, why does one of the most successful media entrepreneurs of all time keep doing another day, another dollar?

He told Forbes it's "for posterity. Need to go out with another winner." 

When grandmother Joanne Gilberts won the lottery in 2007, scooping £1.1 million ($1.7 million) into her bank account, she decided to still return to her £6-an-hour job at a hospital laundry. 

"I know it might seem strange to some people but I've been working at the hospital for 21 years, and it is a big part of my life. I just wanted to get back to normality," she told the BBC. "...I'm determined to keep my feet on the ground and just wanted to put my life back on an even keel after all the excitement."

In 60 years, Rupert Murdoch has transformed an Australian news agency into a sprawling global media empire, and racked up a net worth of $9.4 billion in the process. And at 81, he remains on the offensive, with the modest ambitions of conquering the web.

"So long as I can stay mentally alert;-- inquiring, curious -- I want to keep going," he told Esquire." I love my wife and my children, but I don't want to sit around at home with them. We go on safaris and things like that. I can do that for a couple of weeks a year. I'm just not ready to stop, to die."

Al Davis, the coach, general manager, and owner of the Oakland Raiders for 50 years, who's bullishness ultimately led to the creation of the Super Bowl, reportedly said in 2007, at the age of 78, that he wouldn't retire until his team won two more of the Vince Lombardis. Unfortunately, he died first. But his franchise's motto lives on: "Just win, baby!"

Investor of legend Warren tax-me-and-my-rich-friends Buffett, 82, the second richest man in American (with a net worth of around $46 billion) has no plans to retire as chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Even a prostate cancer diagnosis last year failed to trip up his resolve.

The reason is simple. As he said at the 25th anniversary dinner of the Economic Club in Washington: "I'm having the time of my life!" 


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