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Fast Food Strikes in New York City, July 2013. (Photo: Annette Bernhardt / Flickr Creative Commons)

Even Harvard Business Grads Recognize Unsustainable Nature of Rampant US Inequality

Survey shows Harvard Business School finds alums concerned that depressed wages and conditions could hurt their own business interests

Sarah Lazare

Compared to the average American, most graduates of Harvard Business School are shielded from the economic inequalities that have escalated since the 2008 financial collapse. But a survey (PDF) of 1,947 alums of this elite institution, released Monday, finds that they are nervous about the growing divide between rich and poor, which they say is "unsustainable" and, ultimately, could damage their own business interests.

Designed by Harvard Business School faculty, the latest of this annual survey was conducted between 2013 and 2014 by research firm Abt SRBI. The study, entitled "An Economy Doing Half Its Job," finds that 47 percent of respondents say they expect the next three years will see the decline of U.S. companies in the global market-place, and therefore the depression of wages and benefits. Thirty-three percent of respondents predict the opposite. This marks a slight improvement from 2012, when 58 percent of HBS alumnis predicted a fall in U.S. competitiveness.

However, the report notes that "respondents were much more hopeful about the future competitive success of America’s firms than they were about the future pay of America’s workers." Furthermore, graduates working in small business had a far more pessimistic view of the business environment than the average respondent. The report delivers a warning to the affluent: "in the long run, American business will suffer from an inadequate workforce, a population of depleted consumers, and large blocs of anti-business voters."

Clayton Browne notes in Value Walk:

For a socially progressive person seeking to reverse the growing inequality that is tearing our great nation apart, this Harvard inequality survey is particularly troubling, as the vast majority of Harvard Business school alums replying to this survey are the very people who are currently getting filthy rich at the the expense of the middle class and the poor. In other words, a reasonable meta-reading of this survey is that the rich fat cats and corporate barons are quite consciously aware of their ability to exploit a broken system and intend to continue to do so as long as they possibly can.

For most of America, the crisis is already here.

Pew Poll findings released last week show that 56 percent of Americans say their family’s incomes are falling behind the cost of living — a percentage on par with levels during the 2008 financial crisis. Forty-five percent of respondents say that, over the past year, they have experienced at least one severe financial hardship, such as loss of a job or inability to pay for medical expenses. A stunning 79 percent of respondents say the current and future economic outlook in the United States is poor or fair.

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