The French economist Thomas Piketty says that history bends toward equality. Since 1820, life expectancy has been rising all over the world, along with literacy rates. A college education, which was once considered class privilege, is now accessible to almost everyone. Across the world, the average income has been multiplied by 10.
But some of that progress has broken down over the last century, especially through the concentration of property. In the U.S., for example, 72 percent of property is owned by the top 10 percent, 26 percent by the middle class, and less than 2 percent by the poor. And the wealth gap between the Global North and the Global South is just as dire.
The progress made over the past centuries has been mainly due to revolts and revolutions of the people who experienced inequality firsthand. What happens next is a question mark—but we know that history tends to repeat itself. Learn more in our Instaread on Piketty’s brand-new bestseller, A Brief History of Inequality.