What Does Equality/Inequality Mean in 21st Century America?

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Carnegie Mellon University
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The term equality describes the state of ensuring that people or groups of persons are not treated differently or in a less favorable manner in comparison to others. This is on the basis of such peoples protected traits, including areas of age, gender, religion, race, sexual orientation and disability among others. Inequality is the antonym of equality. Inequality in the United States is a major phenomenon affecting millions of people in the nation. This essay portrays the aspect of inequality in the United States through a discussion of four articles illustrating the different forms of inequality in the nation.

Education Inequality in the United States

In a publication authored on by Ahmed (2016), on the CNN website, there is a great racial disparity that exists in the United States education sector. This revelation was made by the nations Education Department in 2016, from the support of a statistic attained from the Civil Rights Data Collection Survey (Ahmed, 2016). The survey was carried out among 50 million students who were attending 95,000 schools in the United States between 2013-2014 (Ahmed, 2016). The findings of the survey illustrated that more Latino and African-American students in comparison to the White American students in the United States experience inequality in educational opportunities.

The Education Secretary John B. King Jr. (2016) stated that the education disparity "tears at the moral fabric of our nation" (Ahmed, 2016). He made this statement after the finding of the survey that illustrated that in the preschool, African-American children are 3.6 times more likely to be suspended in comparison to the White American students (Ahmed, 2016). The results of the study also portrayed that African-American students were 3.8 times more likely to be suspended in schools in comparison to White-American students (Ahmed, 2016). The study also portrayed that a large population of Black-American and Latino students in 2013-2014 were offered fewer classes in physics, calculus, chemistry and algebra II (Ahmed, 2016).

Occupational Gender Inequality in the United States

The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality (2011) illustrated the aspect of gender inequality between men and women in the United States (Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, 2011). The article stated that in the 20th century, from the 1970s to 1999, women in the United States earned approximately 60% of what the average men earned (Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, 2011). This trend changed little in the 21st century, with women earning 80% of what men earn for similar job positions (Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, 2011). The statistic was prepared by the United States Department of Labor in 2010 (Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, 2011). The data showed that the 20% increase in the earning difference of women in comparison to men in the nation took place in 2005, and it has remained at that level since then (Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, 2011).

The article also illustrated that there is gender inequality in the United States in terms of occupational sex segregation (Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, 2011). This is because men and women in the nation tend to work in very different occupations. On overall, men jobs are in most cases better paid in comparison to Women jobs in the nation. The United States Bureau of Labor (2011) statistics portrayed that women dominated in occupations like nursing, cleaners, textile sewing equipment operators, preschool teachers, secretaries, receptions and childcare workers among others. These professions are not better paying in comparison to jobs dominated by men like chief executives, firefighters, mechanical engineers, truck drivers, airplane pilots and computer software engineers among others.

Race Inequality in the United States

Racial inequality in the United States has been a prevalent phenomenon for over a century. Cases of unequal treatment of a person or a grouping of people due to their racial origin in the nation have been reported over the years. In the 21st century, racial inequality has continued to affect people in the United States, especially those from the minority population in the nation. This is in regards to being offered equal opportunities such as education, quality health, and economic opportunities. The law enforcement agencies in the United States has also been linked with the biased treatment of minority populations in the past. This is especially to the African-American and Hispanic communities living in the United States.

In an article published by the Fox News (2017), a White-American Sheriff in Mississippi and his department were sued for violating the constitutional rights of African-American persons living in the region (Fox News, 2017). The Sheriff was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi and his department on behalf of the black residents of the majority white county (Fox News, 2017). According to the lawsuit, the officers from the Sheriffs department unfairly targeted African-American residents in traffic stops. The law enforcement officers even conducted home searches on the black communities homestead without reasonable suspicion of a wrong doing. Such actions in a liberal nation further portrayed that racial inequality is still a major social problem affecting a significant population of persons in the United States.

Inequality in the Social Class and Income in the United States

A publication authored by Pazzanese (2016) illustrated that the 21st century United States of America is marked with a high level of income disparity. The income disparity is contributed by major economic shifts in the 21st century America, such as the great economic crisis of 2008 among others. Such occurrences have left a little population in the nation very rich, while the rest poor. This has in turn affected nearly every aspect of daily lives, from career prospects and educational opportunities to health risks and neighborhood safety (Pazzanese, 2016). The widening gap in income level has also contributed to the development of a class-based social disconnect characterized by inequitable educational outcomes.

Today, the family income of a person matters more than his/her ability to complete his/her education in a higher learning institution (Pazzanese, 2016). According to Robert Putnam - Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School - "Smart poor kids are less likely to graduate from college now than dumb rich kids (Pazzanese, 2016). That is not because of problems with schools but rather, the economic opportunities and advantages available for the rich children (Pazzanese, 2016). This has, in turn, affected the quality of education attained in the United States and also reduced the volume of competent personnel capable of functioning in various sectors of the nations economy.

Does Equality or Inequality Always Mean the Same Thing?

The terms equality and inequality are in most cases used together when characterizing the state or instance of unfairness and injustice in a given context. Such instances could be for example education, occupational gender, race, social class and income injustices in the United States. The words, though used interchangeably, do not always mean the same thing. This is because equality means a state of providing equal resources or opportunities to persons without favoritism. This is opposite to inequality, which means portraying preference to a group of persons in offering similar opportunities or resources.

Can The Line Between Equality and Inequality Be Moved/Shifted Depending On the Issue Is Being Discussed?

There exists a thin line between equality and inequality when portraying and discussing the aspects justice of people in a society such as the American society. Nevertheless, the meaning of the two terms can be shifted depending on the issue being discussed. For instance, equality can be phrased when voicing the importance of offering equal chances to all persons in a society. Inequality, on the other hand, can be employed to illustrate the societal biases involved in offering equal chances to the members of the public.


In conclusion, inequality is a real social phenomenon affecting millions of persons in the United States. In the nation, inequality occurs in various forms. For example, there is a great racial disparity that exists in the United States education sector. The nation also experiences occupational gender inequality where most men work in better-paying jobs than women. Race inequality in the United States is also prevalent in the United States, and in the past, it has been manifested through the unfair treatment of African-American populations by the local authorities dominated by the White-American population. There is also a great disparity in reference to the income and social classes of persons in the American society. Although the words equality and inequality are used in a similar context, when referencing to societal injustices in the American society, they do not always mean the same thing. The meaning of the terms can, however, be changed in different contexts to refer to different issues being discussed.



Ahmed, S. (2016, June 7). Racial disparities persist in U.S. schools, study finds. Retrieved from CNN: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/06/07/health/schools-disparity-education-study/index.html

Fox News. (2017, May 11). Sheriff sued over race inequality: Officers do jobs 'fairly'. Retrieved from Fox News U.S.: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/05/11/sheriff-sued-over-race-inequality-officers-do-jobs-fairly.html

Pazzanese, C. (2016, February 9). The Rich and the Rest. Retrieved from U.S. News: https://www.usnews.com/news/the-report/articles/2016-02-09/the-costs-of-inequality-the-rich-and-the-rest

Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. (2011). 20 Facts About U.S. Inequality That Everyone Should Know. Retrieved from Stanford Center On Poverty and Inequality: http://inequality.stanford.edu/publications/20-facts-about-us-inequality-everyone-should-know



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