nation: Singapore

The Paris School of Economics has posted a database, compiled by Facundo Alvaredo, Tony Atkinson, Thomas Piketty, and Emmanuel Saez, of the distribution of top incomes in a number of nations, with more on the way. Using income tax records, they provide a quick glance at concentration of income among the wealthy over decades (and in some cases, data extends back over a century). As the authors point out, there are limitations to using tax info to measure inequality, so it’s important to be aware of the limitations of this data series. Most obviously, individuals may take steps to hide their income to evade taxes, and the very wealthy may be particularly able to do so through the use of tax havens, etc. Also, tax policies change, so what counts as “income” at one point might not at another. The authors also had to contend with differences in the taxation unit (households vs. individuals) in different countries to provide some level of comparability.

The database allows you to select a country, a time period, and a variable (top 5% income share, etc.), and get a table showing the results for all years in which data were available. Here, for instance, is part of the table for the share of income earned by the top 1% in Singapore:

Of course, this includes only data on income. In many countries, including the U.S., wealth (value of all assets) is significantly more concentrated than income.

Looking at the dataset, you can see patterns over time. For instance, here’s part of the data from the U.S. (notice there are time gaps between the end of each column and the beginning of the next–I was just grabbing some illustrative screencaps), showing how the percent of income earned by the top 0.1% decreased significantly starting in the 1940s, but began creeping up again by the late 1980s and has grown since then:

The site also allows you to create graphs. They provide a comparison of the share of income earned by the top 1% in 2005 in the U.S., Japan, Australia, and France, but you can look at data for individual nations:

It’s worth playing around a bit, but keeping in mind the caveats about what these data do and don’t tell us. Thanks to Shamus Khan for the tip!

An infographic accompanying an article at the New York Times reveals how “advanced economies” compare on various measures of equality, well-being, educational attainment, and more.  To illustrate this, for each measure countries that rank well are coded tan, countries that rank poorly and very poorly are coded orange and red respectively, and countries that are in the middle are grey.  The countries are then ranked from best to worst overall, with Australia coming in #1 and the United States coming in last.  You might be surprised how some of these countries measure up.

Thanks to Dmitriy T.M. for the link.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

I’m back! I was in the middle of moving and just overwhelmed with everything. Anyway. Talking Points Memo posted a link to an article at Slate about income inequality in the U.S., and particularly the increasing proportion of total U.S. income earned by the very rich. Timothy Noah refers to the “great compression” as a time period when income concentration among top earners dropped significantly, and argues that in the past three decades we’ve seen a “great divergence,” with increasing income inequality hitting levels not seen since the Great Depression:

A slideshow accompanies the article, providing more info on the changes Noah discusses. A few examples (the slideshow provides the data source used to create each image):

Even among the very rich, we see increasing divergence, with the super-ultra rich, the top 0.1% of earners, now making 8% of all U.S. income:

A comparison to some other countries (I don’t know why these specific nations were chosen for the comparison):

Keep in mind, this data includes only income. Wealth — the worth of all assets, including retirement and savings accounts, stocks, homes, cars, and anything else of value — is much more unequally distributed.

Congress is about to be embroiled in a major debate about whether to extend the tax cuts on high incomes; as both sides weigh in, here’s some context to keep in mind:

The effective tax rate is what people actually pay, as opposed to what their tax rate theoretically is. While we’ve certainly seen a large drop since the late ’70s, Noah argues that, compared to other economic changes, the effective tax rate hasn’t affected the rise in income inequality much. It plays a role, yes, but changing the tax rate on the very rich doesn’t affect the overall distribution of income a huge amount, in part because the effective rate, what people end up actually paying, generally ends up being smaller than what they theoretically owe based on the stated tax rate, once you take into account deductions, write-offs, loopholes, and so on.

So…happy post-Labor Day!

Davina A. sent in this ad from Today, a newspaper from Singapore. In it we learn about the horrible, terrible fate that befell Janet. The ad includes an image of a hunched-over, very sad-looking woman.

And what is her unfortunate condition? She has small breasts:


Text of the first paragraph:

Since young, Janet has always felt inferior about her small breasts. Constant teasing from her friends as a “washboard” totally destroyed her confidence and self-esteem. Things got worse when her boyfriend left her because of her small breasts. Subsequent failed relationships caused her to give up all hopes on herself. But thankfully, Slim Fit changed her life.

If you go to the Slim Fit website, they illustrate various types of breasts you might have that deviate from the perky, perfectly round ideal:


So what is Slim Fit? It’s a salon where they massage oils they call Propolis into your breasts to make them grow. There’s also a super high-tech version made up of “tiny nano-sized particles 2000 times smaller than the skin pores around the breasts.”

While this is a particularly striking and melodramatic example, you’ll find similar ads in many fashion/gossip magazines, promising women amazing breast enhancement by rubbing creams of various sorts into their breasts. All rely on the same logic: small breasts doom you to a life of spinsterhood, loneliness, and social ridicule. The problem isn’t that you have a shallow boyfriend who would leave you just because of the size of your breasts; the problem is that you couldn’t keep him interested.  And the product provides an instant solution to your body’s deviation from beauty ideals, allowing you to buy not just the means to a “better” body, but ultimately to purchase love, happiness, and self-esteem as well.

UPDATE: Davina had a larger image and could read the rest of the text in the ad:

Thank you so much Slim Fit for giving me a pair of beautiful breasts which I’ve always wanted! Now that my bust is so voluptuous and shapely, I finally feel complete as a woman!

But it wasn’t like this before! Since young, I’ve always had small breasts with no cleavage at all. In fact, my breats were so flat that they were almost non-existent.  Being constantly teased as a ‘washboard’ really upset me, making me lose confidence and self-esteem.

Things got worse when I started dating. I felt really insecure of my body. I knew my boyfriend minds my small breasts and it was ruining our relationship. I hated myself whenever I see him looking at other girls who were well-endowed. I felt really terrible deep down. I knew it was only a matter of time that I will lose him. And true enough, he left me shortly after. Subsequently, I had countless failed relationships. I felt really unattractive and ashamed of myself. I totally gave up hope and gave up on myself.

Months later, I came across Slim Fit’s advertisement on The Straits Times. I was quite skeptical initially. But I knew I had to do something about my life. I can’t go on like this. Thus, I plucked up courage to seek professional help.

Since then, my life has never been the same again! After just 5 sessions of treatment, I could see the difference! For the first time, I have a cleavage and my bust has never been more perfect! I met the guy of my dreams and this time, it worked! We have been happily married for 5 years now.

I want all women out there to know about Slim Fit Bust Enhancement! I will certainly regret it if I didn’t come to Slim Fit! Thank you Slim Fit!

– Janet Lim, Satisfied customer of Slim Fit

Are you facing the same problem as Janet? Why put up with your bust problems when Slim Fit can help you solve them? Be it enhancement, firming or contouring, be assured that you can trust Slim Fit for your bust needs.

Also: boob jobs on sale, a boob job makes you look smart, and no man will want you without larger breasts.

This ad was photographed by a friend of Christina W.’s friend in Singapore:



I may not have gone to war.
But I’m brave enough
to get a bikini wax.
I am the fairer sex.
I am Venus.

Let us count the problems with this ad:

1. Trivializing service in war:  War is just like a bikini wax, didn’t you know!?  Why aren’t there any post-traumatic stress clinics for us girls!?

2. Demeaning women: We girls are just so sensitive!  We must steel ourselves for a bikini wax, but we are willing to do anything… and I mean anything… to conform to imposed standards of acceptability.

3. Mocking women (to boot):  “The fairer sex.”  “Venus.”   LOL.  See #2.

4.  Erasing female soldiers:  Wait… so “the fairer” and “soldier” are mutually exclusive!?  Who knew!?

And that’s just the text!  What do you think of the image?  Lovely lady in see-through skirt, high heels, and a sensible hair-do tramps, downcast, through rough terrain and high winds that lift her pearls… her spirits… and her credit limit.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Sandra H. sent us a link to a story about a field of empty container ships parked off the coast of Singapore:


Simon Parry reports that the field includes about 12 percent of the world’s container ships.  More than “the U.S. and British navies combined,” he writes.

This image, from the satellite service Vesseltracker, shows just how many ships (indicated in red and green, I think) are there:


Ships lighting up a dark ocean:


Notes Parry: if you’ve ever wanted to rent a massive container ship just for the heck of it, now’s the time.  Apparently you can get one dirt cheap.

The idle ships are another visual indication of the worldwide economic downturn, alongside the images of Detroit’s decline, unsold cars, abandoned homes, and empty malls.


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

It’s always fun for me to have my own gastronomical assumptions revealed. Earlier we posted a cross-cultural example (soup for breakfast in South Korea) and historical examples (mmm aspic, 7-Up with milk, and prunes are for kids!).  On Shakesville, Deeky posted this photograph of ice cucumber-flavored Pepsi being sold in Japan:


UPDATE (June ’10)! In another flavor-shake-up, BoingBoing posted these Pringles from Singapore in Seaweed, Soft-Shell Crab, and Grilled Shrimp:


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

I came across this ad for Singapore Airlines the other day:

At first my thought was, ok, you have two White passengers being served by the Asian flight attendant, but I’m sure there are many White passengers on the airline and many Asian flight attendants, so in and of itself, I decided I couldn’t say much about that. What I was more creeped out by was the way the flight attendant’s outfit matched the carpet–she was being turned into just a part of the decor, there as part of the luxurious surroundings to make the passengers feel they are being well cared for. It’s one thing to portray someone as an employee who serves others; it’s another to literally make them part of the background.

But then I googled the airline and discovered that it is known for its “Singapore girls.” Here is a video that shows lots of images of how pretty Asian women, there to serve others, have been used in their advertising (the creator of the video claims to be a Singapore girl):

Apparently the Singapore Girl is such a phenomenon, she’s a figure at Madame Tussaud’s:

I had no idea that when most people think of Singapore, they think of this “pretty, smiling…girl.”

Anyway, I think it’s an interesting example of the way non-White women are often portrayed as exotic (the Singapore girls have become a symbol of Singapore itself) and also of what sociologists refer to as emotion work. The Singapore girls aren’t there just to bring us drinks and make sure we’re buckled in; there’s there to make us feel pampered and to warm our hearts–to do the type of emotion work (constantly smiling, being extremely attentive, being at the passengers’ service and making it seem like a joy) that makes customers feel cared-for and special…and thus willing to pay high prices for those business seats. And clearly these women are part of the decor–pretty, polite, accommodating women for passengers to enjoy while they fly.