Economic Outlook

Wealth and Extreme Poverty, Side by Side: Welcome to 2018

As we enter an opulent holiday season on the brink of one of the most dramatic chapters of wealth inequality in our nation’s history, we’re pausing for a moment to think about both the challenges and the blessings that face us in the years that lie ahead.

The stock market and consumer spending are both high this year, suggesting that corporate returns are on the rise and the great recession is in retreat. But at the same time, wealth inequality is driving a wider wedge between those who benefit from increasing corporate returns and those who are being pushed further and further from the prospect of wealth or even basic financial security. This article from the Guardian takes a deep dive into the lives of some of those who have been—and will continue to be—left out of any form of prosperity based on stock prices. On the way, the Guardian’s journalists (and accompanying UN special rapporteur) show us a specific demographic segment of the richest country in the world, a segment for which basic needs like food, shelter and access to drinking water are sliding out of reach, and once-eradicated diseases and parasites associated with extreme poverty are making a comeback.

Among the dwindling middle class, we’re meeting the members of the first generation in modern history who are expected to earn less and fare worse than their parents. And among the rising ranks of those who live far below the poverty line, we’re facing an era in which the remaining avenues of escape are rapidly closing.


Here at Just Atonement, not many of us live without basic needs, but our friends and personal contacts include many members of a struggling generation—a cohort for which expensive educations don’t seem to be paying off, home ownership is slowing down, and major life milestones (like starting a family) are being pushed to later and later chapters. Meanwhile, the effects of a changing climate are throwing many of our carefully calculated predictions about the future of the economy into disarray.

Potential solutions range from the possibility of a universal income, to single payer healthcare, to easier access to quality childcare. Can any one of these options provide the stability we need for our current struggling generation of young adults? What do you think? If you’re a young person (roughly between the ages of 20 and 40), you’ve surely given this issue some thought. Please share your ideas and conclusions with us, or leave your words in the comments. We’re working every day to find connections between complex problems and potential solutions, but of course we can’t do it alone. As the year winds down, please tell us your story and help us recognize the unseen links between where you are, the path you took to get there, and where you plan to go next.