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Growing Inequality

Despite widespread interest in growing economic inequality and rising levels of poverty in Japan, very little attention has been paid to the role of differential family change (see Sudo et al. 2012 for an exception). Japan has long been viewed as a relatively egalitarian country (Moriguchi and Saez 2008), but has become somewhat more unequal since the 1980s, with the Gini coefficient for household disposable income rising from 0.30 in 1985 to 0.34 in 2009 (OECD 2016a). Growth in poverty is also pronounced, with the proportion of the population living in relative poverty (equivalized household income less than half of the national median), rising from 0.12 to 0.16 over the same period (OECD 2016a). As discussed in the previous chapter, economic inequality is intricately linked with family behavior in the U.S. (McLanahan and Percheski 2008) and cross-national studies have found that higher levels of inequality are associated with a stronger negative educational gradient in divorce (Harkonen and Dronkers 2006). Our analyses cannot shed light on the complex relationships between inequality and family behavior, but existing research on the U.S. and elsewhere suggests that the rising levels of inequality and poverty make Japan ripe for growing socioeconomic bifurcation in family behavior. We now turn our attention to existing research on educational differences in the family outcomes linked to diverging destinies.

 
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