Monica Prasad, an associate professor of sociology and faculty fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, is the author of “The Land of Too Much: American Abundance and the Paradox of Poverty.”Why do European countries have lower levels of poverty and inequality than the United States? We used to think this was a result of American anti-government sentiment, which produced a government too small to redistribute income or to attend to the needs of the poor. But over the past three decades scholars have discovered that our government wasn’t as small as we thought. Historians, sociologists and political scientists have all uncovered evidence that points to a surprisingly large governmental presence in the United States throughout the 20th century and even earlier, in some cases surpassing what we find in Western Europe.
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