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Religions 2017, 8(6), 99;

Economic Inequality and the New School of American Economics

History Department, 613 Dealy Hall, Fordham University, 441 E. Fordham Road, Bronx, NY 10458, USA; Stephen Leccese [email protected]
Academic Editors: Kate Ward and Kenneth Himes
Received: 4 February 2017 / Revised: 3 May 2017 / Accepted: 10 May 2017 / Published: 24 May 2017
Full-Text   |   PDF [183 KB, uploaded 24 May 2017]


This essay analyzes economic inequality in the Gilded Age, roughly from 1865 to 1900. It focuses specifically on a group of economists who identified working-class consumption as an economic stimulus, and accordingly advocated an increase in wages to bring this about. It is structured in three sections: first, it demonstrates how industrialization in the late-nineteenth century sparked social tensions, convincing observers that there was a crisis of inequality; second, it explains how these tensions produced a “New School” of economics who sought to alleviate these issues by changing economic doctrine; it concludes by noting how this New School exerted an influence on public policy in the Progressive Era. In their conception, economics should be redesigned to promote a more equal distribution of wealth. Therefore, higher wages would stimulate working-class consumption, which would stabilize the economy and overall alleviate class conflict. This story offers a unique way to view the development of consumerism and social reform in American history. View Full-Text
Keywords: economics; minimum wage; intellectual history; economic reform; Gilded Age; industrialization; consumption economics; minimum wage; intellectual history; economic reform; Gilded Age; industrialization; consumption
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Leccese, S. Economic Inequality and the New School of American Economics. Religions 2017, 8, 99.

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