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Local experts weigh in on income inequality

Speakers expect discussion to include housing, jobs, economy

By , Columbian staff writer
Published: October 5, 2016, 5:57pm

Four faculty members from Clark College will talk about income inequality causes and impacts at a panel discussion Thursday.

Economics instructor Patricia Atkinson and professors Michael Ceriello, Kushlani de Soyza and Don Ludwig will provide expertise from their respective fields on the matter in a discussion called “Income Inequality: Is the American Dream at Risk?” The discussion will use the recent book “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” by Robert D. Putnam as a discussion guide.

The discussion starts 6 p.m. at Clark College, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, in Foster Auditorium. It is free and open to the public. Dave Kosloski, professor of communications studies and a former coach of Clark’s speech and debate team, will moderate.

Atkinson, who has taught at Clark College since 2008, said the issue hasn’t dissipated despite forward strides from the U.S. economy in recent years.

“That slowdown of the economy from 2007 to 2009 was so slow to get out from, and people are feeling constrained,” Atkinson said in an interview with The Columbian. “Jobs have been scarce, incomes have been slow to grow. Many have felt their incomes fall, even though the economy has been growing since mid-2009.”

Regarding Clark County, she said she expects housing to be a big part of the discussion. Housing prices have climbed in recent years and put greater stress on people with lesser incomes, she said.

“I think it’s easier for some to meet those increasing prices than it is for others, which is where we get the effects of income inequality,” she said. “If you’re well off and house is affordable to you, it’s not as big an impact. If you’re renting a home and your income is constrained, its much more difficult to find affordable housing.”

Clark County home prices recently crossed the $300,000 median price threshold for the first time ever. According to U.S. Census data, the median household income in Clark County is $59,551.