Some weeks ago on this blog, my colleague Agnes Dessing addressed the topic of inequality: Why inequality is bad for democracy. Agnes’ contribution gives me a nice opportunity to republish (albeit, adjusted) a post from my former blog, where I used the topic of inequality to address some issues regarding the evaluation of (scholarly) sources.
– Growing Inequalities Impacts GINI is an international (Australia, EU, Japan and North America) and interdisciplinary (economics, political science, sociology) project which focuses on «inequalities in income/wealth and education and their social, political and cultural impacts […] the implications for policy and institutions […] potential effects of individual distributional positions and increasing inequality for a host of ‘bad outcomes’ (both societal and individual)». Country Reports are full-text available on the GINI-website. Two of the UvA’s research centres, AMCIS-Amsterdam Centre for Inequality Studies and AIAS Amsterdam Institute for Advanced labour Studies belong to GINI’s core research teams. A sound example of scholarly source.
– “Wealth inequality in America” is a Youtube video that went viral after its publication in November 2012, and that represents a textbook case of evaluating web sources, no matter how alarming the video contents might be. Whereas the video provides some references (see screenshot above), its author’s identity remains mysterious: all we seem to know about Youtube user Politizane is that he is a Texas freelance filmmaker, as reported in an article at MotherJones, «a nonprofit news organization that specializes in investigative, political, and social justice reporting». As you might have noticed, MotherJones belongs also to the sources mentioned in the video, together with:
– a 2011 peer reviewed article by Michael I. Norton (Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School) and Dan Ariely (Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University), Building a Better America—One Wealth Quintile at a Time;
– a 2011 post at ThinkProgress, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, which is «an independent nonpartisan education and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through ideas and action».
– a 2012 post at CNNMoney, the CNN business website.
MotherJones, ThinkProgress and CNNMoney all belong to the category of news, and as such they will make suitable information sources depending on what our research question is. Let’s focus on Mother Jones and ThinkProgress: their respective ‘About’ pages, ThinkProgress’ affiliation to the Center for American Progress Action Fund (whose President has served in both the Clinton and Obama administrations) and the way they address news topics all indicate a liberal to left-wing political agenda. A likely candidate for a research question requiring the use of both websites could therefore be how progressive online media and/or “think tanks” report on inequality, both in the US and abroad (see The Rules for a worldwide take on the topic).
– as far as inequality and evaluating web sources are concerned, two other interesting test cases are the following: Distinguished Professor Emeritus (University of California Santa Cruz) William Domhoff’s website Who Rules America, and the Global Wealth Report 2014, released in october by the Credit Suisse Research Institute. The two sources agree in reporting high levels of inequality (in the US and worldwide alike), yet how to assess the value of research methodologies as different as those likely to be expected from an academic and a financial setting? What sort of bias, if any, could possibly be present in each of the sources?
Australian cartoonist Peter Nicolson‘s “gap tween rich and poor” may be thirteen years old but is still just as topical today as it was back then.