2017 Feature, Medium Newsroom finalist

The Business of Inequality

About the Project

“Capitalism has a complex relationship with inequality. It is built on the idea that those who have the drive and creativity to build new businesses should do better than those who do not. We celebrate entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg because they exemplify the best of capitalism: Their wealth flows from the fact that they had the imagination and the energy to create enterprises whose products have changed our lives and that employ hundreds of thousands of people.”

So begins Harvard Business School professor Rebecca Henderson’s contribution to the Harvard Business Review’s inequality series. So why worry? Perhaps, she continues, because “while the prospect of inequality in outcomes often acts a useful spur to effort, persistent inequality in opportunities can be deeply corrosive.” That may explain why a 2015 survey of Harvard MBA students indicate that a majority (63%) of these future leaders thought that reducing economic inequality should be a high or very high priority for American society.

Last April, Harvard Business Review tackled this question with a two-week expert-led digital conversation about inequality. Anchored by Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom, HBR explored how—and why—the wage gap is rising in the US. Citing Brexit in the U.K., the presidential election in the U.S., the Five Star movement in Italy, and the resurgence of Marine Le Pen in France, Bloom said of inequality, “It’s not only a huge social issue, but it’s now driving global politics.”

We agree. So we did what we do best: we gathered top experts in the field and invited our audience to join them. Joining the conversation with Bloom: Craig Rowley, Jason Furman, Rebecca Henderson and Lavina Nagar as well as HBR editors Adi Ignatius, Walter Frick, Scott Berinato and Laura Amico.

You can find the full table of contents — including explanatory features, charts, Q&A’s, and more — in the “lineup.” Other features include an interview with Bloom on HBR’s IdeaCast podcast, and a conversation in our special Slack channel, where more than 150 HBR subscribers joined Bloom, Ignatius and others for realtime conversation about the business of inequality over the course of the program. The community was enthusiastic. “I have learned quite a lot in these two weeks and will definitely think of inequality differently from now on,” one participant said.

Our full program included engagement on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and Instagram beginning a week before Nicholas Bloom’s feature launched, and concluding a week following the two-week program. Journalists from The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Reuters and The Atlantic shared the program, as did leading researchers from Harvard, CUNY, Brookings and the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

We share these metrics not just because we’re proud of them, but because we believe that The Business of Inequality has not just sparked conversation about the type of world we want to work in, but set the storyline for how we understand what that world looks like today.