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In some measure the long-standing increase in the U.S. Gini reflects an increase in female-headed households, which tend to be poorer, and in two-income households, which are relatively affluent. Another source of inequality has been the decline of organized labor. It now represents only 8% of the U.S. private-sector labor force, meaning that fewer employers are now committed to standardized wage rates. In the great global economy they are also under new pressure to hold down wages.

The driving force behind income inequality has been meritocracy, i.e., workers get what they're worth. And in periods of boundless technological innovation, like the present, brains and talent are suddenly worth a lot more. The demand for mental skills has exploded. The total U.S. labor force has grown by a little more than one-third in the past two decades, but managerial and professional jobs have roughly doubled, from 24 million to more than 48 million.

Eleven years after its explosive debut, The Bell Curve, by the late Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, remains one of the best available guides to the current state of inequality. The book described the rise of a new "cognitive elite" and of a world in which the great dividing force is intelligence. And as we discover by examining psychometric bell curves, inequalities in human intelligence are real and inescapable. There is a high likelihood that those Ginis will go right on climbing.

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