by Hillary Plank
Today in the United States of America, income inequality is the worst it has been since the 1920s. The CIA World Factbook ranks the US the 42nd most unequal country in the world, relative to income. Economic theorists blame the gap on income stagnation among most American households and soaring income among the already wealthy. While the US is worse off than peers like Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom, it doesn’t stand alone. Even Germany and France, the mom and pop holding the euro zone together right now, have seen their share of rising income inequality in the past decade.
It’s no wonder, then, that the Occupy Wall Street movement is resonating with consumers in developed countries across the globe. On October 15, citizens in Italy, Belgium, Chile and Spain, to name a few, stood in solidarity with OWS protesters in a Global Day of Rage. There’s a 99% story to be found in all countries, but — and this is a big but — it’s not always income that drives people into identifying with the top or the bottom.
At Iconoculture, we’ve been quantifying the values and behaviors of consumers based on a model of socioeconomic health since mid-2010. In our US Quantified Analysis, we’ve found that correlations between health, education and income potential are more likely than income alone to indicate how consumers feel about their long-term financial outlook, and likewise their attitudes toward spending. In other words, it’s not about what people have or don’t have, but how upwardly or downwardly mobile they feel.
And while the worldwide economy may be going global and common themes are emerging, cultural idiosyncrasies related to socioeconomic health do exist at the country level (which we’re seeing when we apply our socioeconomic lens to Western Europe). As we seek to better understand consumers across the world as they navigate a dynamic and interconnected financial progression, it’s the values and attitudes happening on the inside — not the financial statistics — that will show us the way.