How the 1% meme obscures global inequality

One irony of the 1% meme — the myth that women only earn 10% of the world’s income and own 1% of all property — is that it presents as a statement of global gender solidarity, while undermining true understanding of global inequality.

In my first post on this, I pointed to how a few relatively rich women (that is, all US women), disprove the 1% meme’s message that women share a condition of economic deprivation:

In the U.S. in 2009, the 106 million women have incomes averaged $29,700 each. I think that’s $3.2 trillion. The whole world’s gross domestic product — a rough measure of total income — is $58.1 trillion. So, it looks to me like U.S. women alone earn 5.4% of world income today.

Later, I showed that American women — in fact, single American women alone — own more than 1% of the world’s wealth.

What about home ownership?

Homes are the main repository of wealth in middle class America. I haven’t found a study on the gender composition of home ownership. Partly, as with land ownership, it’s impossible to say because so many homes are owned by various collectivities — mostly married couples, banks and the state.

But the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey questionnaire asks which homes are owned by their residents (with or without a mortgage) versus rented. And it identifies the person in each household “in whose name this house or apartment is owned, being bought, or rented.” That person is called the “householder.” In an owned home, it’s reasonable to say that person is the owner. If the person is married, I assume the couple owns the home together. From the 2010 ACS, then, here is the breakdown of who owns the 75 million “owned” homes:

This shows that women are the homeowners (living alone, or living as a householder with no spouse) in 24% of owned homes, compared with 15% for men. If we assume the married-couple owned homes are equally owned by men and women, then women own more homes in the US than men do.

When well-meaning feminists spread the meme that women only own 1% of the world’s property, in the name of global solidarity, they conceal the vast inequality between women in rich versus poor countries.

There is economic inequality between men and women, but gender is not class. And woman does not equal poor.

13 Comments

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13 responses to “How the 1% meme obscures global inequality

  1. Great post Philip. I’ve enjoyed following your quest to destroy the 1% meme (while still acknowledging the existence of gender inequality). I hadn’t seen these data on home ownership before. I like that women do it more than men on their own. I posted a while ago on patterns on gendered patterns of living alone (http://wp.me/p28qKO-2I), but this is a really interesting supplement. I’ll go in later and link to this post. Thanks.

  2. Pingback: The 99 Percent Spring: The People Are Not Powerless – by Chuck Collins – Thanks to A. | 2012: What's the 'real' truth?

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  6. Gina Alvarado

    Hi,
    I am very interested in your research. Although I agree with you in that the meme of the 1% does not have any back-up evidence, I think you have to locate those studies in the time where they were made. Mostly when all the development projects were focused on men and there was a need to make women needs visible.
    Anyway, that is not my main comment. I wanted to know how much evidence you had of shared property rights. I would suggest you to check the assumption of shared ownership for married couples because different states have different laws about that in the United States. I have been curious about such a study and also about somebody checking who has been more affected by foreclosures. That could be interesting.
    To support your first point, we actually checked on another issue that supports the research on poverty and gender and studied what happens when you use the sex of the individual owner of assets versus the sex of the head of the household. Maybe you want to give a look at that so here is the link

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-7660.2012.01764.x/abstract

    Have a good day,

    • If women´s jobs don´t pay enough for a home (most homes run at 100´s of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars), then something gave the woman her home, or she stole her home. I am certain that if you added race to these statistics the statistics would show white women predominantly having their own homes, and no jobs, and no work history. I believe you will also find that most of the people outside begging for food and shelter are male, and most of the people receiving welfare benefits are female. Please Give Men Houses.

  7. I left a reply… where did it go?

  8. This is my new opinion of people who are in the encyclopedia.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_N._Cohen

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