You are here
Economic and Life Expectancy Gaps
Guest Author: Ted Kraver, Ph.D.
We all espouse the goodness of effective science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Our country, state and the lives of many of our citizens have profited by the force of STEM on agriculture, transportation, communication and medicine. But we must also heed the warning of Yoda in George Lucas‘ Star Wars, “There is a dark side of the force.”
The United States market income gap is the largest of all developed companies according the International Monetary Fund (IMF). One percent (1%) percent of our citizens receive 19% of the US market income while the top 10% receive 48% of market income. The richest one tenth of percent (0.1 %) quadrupled in the size over past 10 years. Our poverty level was flat over the past ten (10) years at 11% but just counting children it is 22%.
The IMF addressed the folly of depending on economic growth to narrow the rich-poor gap. On the contrary, the IMF mathematical studies showed that income inequity drags down high growth and makes it unsustainable. The 2010 US Census shows there are about two dozen tiny high income regions with personal income medians sixty percent (60%) higher than the U.S. median ($51,900). Another study showed that almost all of the1%’ers live in these Islands and high quality education, great work opportunities and intermarriages that perpetuate their existence. This income gap also produces a longevity gap.
The highest average county income in the US is ($107,000) In Fairfax County Virginia. The average life expectancy is 84 years with little difference between genders. But 350 miles away in low income coal mining McDowell County in West Virginia the life expectancy is 69 with a 9 year spread between the gals outliving the guys. This study showed that it’s not money in the bank but money at work supporting jobs, exercise, medical decisions, food and housing that is making the difference.
The bright forces of STEM have taken our civilization from serfdom to where our poorest citizens have a life span and economic well-being that far surpasses the wealthy of by-gone days. But for several decades STEM has continued to benefit the fortunate while the unfortunate are remain mired in the past. Maybe turning once again to the vision source for STEM, science fiction, we can find a pathway out of this dilemma.
How about asking Captain James Tiberius Kirk of Star Trek fame? When Kirk was in training there was a problem solving a challenge called “Kobayashi Maru” that could not be solved. The reason the cadets were given an unsolvable problem was to check their character when facing impossible stress. Cadet James Kirk hacked into the training system and reprogramed the problem so it was solvable. The solution to the Fairfax/McDowell problem is to hack into the status-quo and do a radical redesign of our seven level education system. There two huge levers to pull. The first is to individualize the system so that every student is self-motivated to learn by his or her ever changing calling. The second is to open way for 21st century learning innovations by clearing away the restrictive systems laid down in the 19th and 20th centuries. The plethora of “James Kirk’s” in the system will do the rest.