The separation of the wealthy and the working class has been a source of much debate in the United States. Those who don't see it as a growing issue are labeled members of the "1 percent" while those emphasizing the need for greater economic equality getting labeled socialists. Aside from the troubling reality that a great many people on the right don't seem to realize what the term "socialist" actually means and that a great many people on the left are pretty quick to claim 99 percent of the population for their cause without any prior consultation, it does strike to the heart of a deeper question about the economy: what would an ideal income disparity look like?
There are relatively few utopian socialists left in this world, and it's clear to most that a society that fails to create a vibrant consumer class is doomed to economic despair. But somewhere in the middle the truth lies, and identifying where that might be isn't an easy task.
However, despite the complicated nature of an economic question like what the ideal division of wealth might be for optimal economic growth, it's a question that's been thrust upon the American people in recent years. It was repeatedly visited during the Romney-Obama campaign in 2012, and President Obama appears ready to spend his remaining years in office using the bully pulpit in hopes of getting another increase in the minimum wage passed.
So, while even the best economists probably lack the ability to identify a precise level of wealth distribution that is the best for society as a whole, we can compare our current state of affairs to other historical periods and other countries around the world. The infographic below from Business Management Degrees attempts to do that, putting our current income gap into the context of how it ranks internationally and how it compares to our own past.
It's certainly not going to definitively answer any questions, but it does get one thinking.