Inequality in America

Race, Poverty, and Fulfilling Democracy's Promise

Stephen M. Caliendo

Second Edition • July 18, 2017 • 300 pages

Print ISBN: 9780813350530 • $33.00 USD$42.99 CAN

Ebook ISBN: 9780813350714 • $19.99 USD$24.99 CAN

Courses: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

More by these authors:

Order an Exam or Desk Copy

Read a sample from the new edition.
Watch an interview between author Stephen M. Caliendo and editor Ada Fung.

Why does inequality have such a hold on American society and public policy? And what can we, as citizens, do about it? Inequality in America takes an in-depth look at race, class and gender-based inequality, across a wide range of issues from housing and education to crime, employment and health. Caliendo explores how individual attitudes can affect public opinion and lawmakers’ policy solutions. He also illustrates how these policies result in systemic barriers to advancement that often then contribute to individual perceptions. This cycle of disadvantage and advantage can be difficult—though not impossible—to break. “Representing” and “What Can I Do?” feature boxes throughout the book highlight key public figures who have worked to combat inequality and encourage students to take action to do the same.

The second edition has been thoroughly revised to include the most current data and to cover recent issues and events like the 2016 elections and the Black Lives Matter movement. It now also includes a brand-new chapter on crime and criminal justice and an expanded discussion of immigration. Concise and accessible, Inequality in America paves the way for students to think critically about the attitudes, behaviors and structures of inequality.


Resource Webpage:

Visit the resource page to access open student web resources, and the Inequality in America Facebook page.

A Transition Guide is available for professors who are switching from the 1st edition to the 2nd edition of Inequality in America in their courses. Please fill out the online form, and a press representative will be in touch shortly to grant access.

If you have any questions or issues, please email

Stephen M. Caliendo is Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Political Science at North Central College. He is co-author of Race Appeal: How Candidates Invoke Race in U.S. Political Campaigns. He is also the co-director of The Project on Race in Political Communication (

Series Editor: Craig A. Rimmerman, Hobart and William Smith College.
Each book in the series addresses a “real world” problem, raising the issues that are of most concern to students. Each is structured to cover the historical and theoretical aspects of the dilemma, as well as to explore the dilemma from a practical point of view and to speculate about the future. The books are designed as supplements to introductory courses in American politics or as case studies to be used in upper-level courses.


List of Illustrations
List of Feature Boxes

Poverty and the Myth of Meritocracy
Racial and Economic Inequality Through the Lens of Political Science
Defining Inequality
Hegemony and Intersectionality
The Politics of Inequality
Structure of the Book

1 Representation and the Roots of Inequality
Defining (In)Equality
Democracy’s Promise: America’s Founding Principles
Representation: Elected Officials
Representation: The Courts
The American Anomaly
Alternatives to Our Current System
American Pluralism

2 Income and Wealth
Representing the Poor

3 Housing
The Roots of Disadvantage
Opportunities for Home Ownership
Racial Inequality and Housing
Poverty and Housing in Rural America

4 Education
The Roots of Inequality in Education
Inequality in Funding
Inequality in Outcomes

5 Crime and Criminal Justice
Due Process v. Crime Control Models
Police Brutality and Black Lives Matter
Criminal Justice and the Perpetuation of Inequality

6 Immigration and Employment
Discrimination in Hiring
Education and Training Opportunities
Immigrants and Employment

7 Health
Access to Health Care
Disparities in Health Care Access
Disparities in Nutrition and Access to Healthy Foods

8 Gender
We Just Don’t Get It
Getting Our Language Straight
Gender Inequality and Poverty
Gender and Housing Access
Gender Inequality and Education
Gender and Criminal Justice
Gender, Reproductive Rights, and Health
Women in Office

9 Affirmative Action
History of Affirmative Action in America
From Davis to Ann Arbor to Austin
Affirmative Action Beyond the Classroom
Affirmative Action Ballot Initiatives and Referendums

Conclusion: The Space Between Power and Powerlessness


“Concise and accessible, Inequality in America is ideal for getting students to think critically about the attitudes, behaviors and structures of inequality.”
Library Bookwatch

Praise for Previous Edition

“Uncommonly balanced and fully accessible.”
Publishers Weekly

“A well-researched and insightful perspective on economic inequality and its conflict with American ideals.”

“A welcome addition to American politics classes. Caliendo’s textbook covers an array of important topics within the broad field of American income inequality. He provides a thorough exploration of America’s representational design and offers detailed definitions of income and wealth alongside trends in both variables. . . . In addition to providing foundational definitions, Caliendo’s textbook offers an excellent introduction to the drivers of income inequality, with a particular focus on racial income inequality.”
Political Science Quarterly

Inequal ity in America is a thorough and comprehensive review of the state of race- and socioeconomic-status-based inequality from a multidisciplinary perspective. The author includes a great mix of political science, history, economics, and sociology. I highly recommend this book for anyone teaching an undergraduate course on U.S. inequality.”
—S. Michael Gaddis, The Pennsylvania State University

“I am greatly impressed with this book! The discussions of intersectionality, race, poverty, gender, and privilege in Inequality in America accurately cover the social and systemic issues that create and sustain inequality.”
—Vanessa Hunn, Northern Kentucky University

Inequality in America introduces students to otherwise somewhat closed scholarly debates on inequality and its pertinent issues. The richly textured coverage of vital public policy questions related to inequality and its data-driven foundation are the strengths of the book. Students will find the format of the book appealing. Interesting features such as the “Representing” sections of each chapter help hone the respective chapters’ themes and coverage. Moreover, the “What Can I do?” section in each chapter offers very useful and empowering strategies for students to take up as they try to negotiate the many challenges that confront their generation.”
—James Taylor, University of San Francisco

Inequality in America is an important addition to an introductory course in American government. It is clearly written and accessible to students, while thoughtfully addressing the complex institutionalization of inequality, and its effects, in the United States. Though there are texts that address racial politics more generally, this book is unique in its specific focus on the systemic nature of inequality and its focus on the intersections of race, poverty, and gender.”
—Catherine Paden, Simmons College

If you are a professor or course instructor, please use the following form to give us feedback on Inequality in America: