The rise in the number of Americans out of work for long periods of time has helped push U.S. income inequality to a 50-year high and has particularly hurt low-income households, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen has called the growing income gap between rich and poor "one of most disturbing trends facing the nation." She has also said she is especially concerned with the "devastating" effects of long-term unemployment.
The share of unemployed U.S. workers unable to find jobs after looking for six months or longer more than doubled to 45.3 percent as a result of the Great Recession.
Households in the bottom fifth are suffering the most from the situation, Minneapolis Fed monetary adviser Fabrizio Perri wrote in his analysis of income inequality posted on the bank's website Wednesday.
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%"The increase in inequality at the bottom seems tightly linked to the very large increase in long-term unemployment, which has depressed income for the bottom," Perri said.
Perri's study also showed that taxes and government programs such as unemployment insurance have narrowed some of the inequality gap but have benefited middle-income Americans more than the poor.
Overall, disposable income for all income levels has fallen over the past 15 years, the study found. But while the gap between the top 5 percent of households and that of middle-income household rose sharply in terms of pre-tax income, the gap in post-tax income has been fairly stable, the study found.
By contrast, the gap in disposable income between the bottom 20 percent and middle-income households widened after the recession, "and it is now as high as it has ever been over the past half century," Perri wrote. "This will be an important trend to monitor in coming years."
Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota has been trying to convince his fellow policymakers, including Yellen, of the need to keep rates lower for longer to get the jobless back to work faster.
Although on Wednesday he supported the Fed's decision to continue to dial down the central bank's massive bond-buying stimulus, Kocherlakota has said he still believes the central bank should do more to boost both employment and inflation.
The Minneapolis Fed published Perri's analysis as the lead essay in its 2013 annual report, which also includes a letter form Kocherlakota calling it a "dispassionate analysis" that will contribute to public policymaking.
7 Simple Habits to Save a Pretty Penny (or $100)
Fed Study: Poor Falling Farther Behind Rest of U.S.
Have you ever heard of the 30-day rule? As a frugal guy, this is one of my favorite rules in spending. If you’re about to spend any more than $20 on something that is unnecessary, don’t. Instead, put the item down and wait 30 days to buy it. You’ll be amazed at how much money you save by not making unnecessary frivolous purchases.
I literally mean freeze your credit cards. It seems a bit extreme, but think of it this way. The average credit card comes with a 13 percent or higher interest rate. By simply not using credit cards as often, you’ll save a ton. So, get a plastic sandwich bag and put your credit cards in it. Fill it with water, zip it up and throw it in the freezer. Without easy access to those tempting pieces of plastic, you probably won’t use them as much. However, they’ll still be around -- in an emergency, you can retrieve them from the ice.
Have you ever looked around your house, seen a few items and thought, “I could have made that!” You probably could have. The only thing is, you didn’t. Instead you paid for it. From now on, before you buy something you think you can make on your own, give it a shot. I saved a little over a hundred bucks about two weeks ago. I needed a new bird cage for my fiancé’s doves. Instead of buying a cage for $200, I made one that was far bigger for less than $80.
Did you know that a clean air filter in your car can lead to 7 percent more fuel efficiency? That means at current gas prices, with a clean air filter, you’ll save about $100 a year, if you drive the average 10,000 miles.
How often on the way home from the office do you want to stop for a convenient quick meal? You’ve had a long day, and it feels justified. But it costs much more than a home-cooked meal. The answer is your slow cooker. Use it to prepare your meal in the morning on days you know will be rough. This way, you can skip the fast food and rush home to an already ready home-cooked meal.
Do you pay a maintenance fee for your bank account? Why? Tons of banks offer checking and savings accounts without them. Look to your local credit union or even switch to an online bank. When comparing your options, also look at the interest you can earn. Currently, I get about 3 percent on checking and about 3.4 percent on savings, but who knows what kind of great deals you can find?
I’ve had tons of options to sign up for customer rewards programs and I was just too busy. So, I didn’t sign up. Then one day, I realized that I was paying for rewards I wasn’t getting. The cost of the rewards obviously trickles down to the end consumer. So, if the end consumer doesn’t take part, he or she loses money in the process. Since I’ve signed up for every reward program around me, I’ve saved at least 20 or 30 bucks a month in rewards.