Monkey Business aka Economic Inequality

Director – Shola Lynch
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What are the causes of inequality?
In Monkey Business, filmmaker Shola Lynch chats with economists from across the political spectrum to help explain the causes of economic inequality, with help from a couple of mammalian friends.

Director & Writer: Shola Lynch
Producer: Angela Tucker
Camera: Yoni Brook

Editor: Connor Kalista
Animation: Native to Noise
Lia Gonzalez
Megan Palero
Calro Yu
Gary Burtless
Lawrence Mishel
Michael Strain
Abe Dolinger
Jacob Weeks
Second Camera:
Ian Moubayed
Dustin Oakley
Danny April
Melanie Harris
Heidi Pakdel
Jessie Sung
Production Manager: Danielle Beeber
Production Assistant: Sean Edsall

Ted Talks
Music: Audio Network
Songs: Misfit
Paul Mottram (PRS)
Strutting Out: Terry Devine-King / Paul Clarvis
Clockwork-Piano: Philip Sheppard
Glitch-Waltz: Bob Bradley (PRS) / Paul Mottram (PRS)
Here Comes Trouble
Terry Devine-King
It’s All the Same to Me Paul Mottram
Insurance: Taylor and Taylor Associates
Equipment Rentals:
Hand Held Films
DC Camera LLC
Post Production Facility: Post Works
Special Thanks:
Brenda Coughlin
Neil Irwin
James Schamus
(c) Realside Productions Inc

Shola Lynch

Shola Lynch is an award-winning American filmmaker who burst on the scene in 2004 with her feature documentary Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, a first-hand account of the events that thrust Angela Davis into the national spotlight, from a young college professor to a fugitive on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. Shola’s first independent feature documentary, Chisholm ‘72 - Unbought and Unbossed, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, aired on PBS’s POV series, and garnered two Independent Spirit Award nominations and a prestigious Peabody Award for excellence. Shola honed her filmmaking skills as a visual researcher and associate producer for Ken Burns and Florentine Films. Her work on the two-part Frank Lloyd Wright documentary and the ten-part JAZZ series inspired her to pursue the craft of storytelling. Since then she has produced and scripted stories that aired on PBS, CNN, HBO Sports, ESPN, TV-ONE, and BET.

Director's Note

"When I was asked to make a short doc on economic inequality, I thought sure this would be easy. Boy, was I wrong. I found out that I understood the feeling of inequality, which is exemplified in the doc by Frans De Waals’ fairness experiment with monkeys. But like most Americans, I conflated the feeling of inequality with the economic definition of inequality, and that was where the confusion came in. My goal with this film was to use my own learning curve as a point of departure to provide some clarity. 

What I learned is that economic inequality is essentially a discussion about the gap between the rich and the poor. By comparing wages and salaries it is shocking to realize that most Americans — the working and middles classes — or the bottom 80%, only make a tiny fraction compared to the people at the top. Economists agree that the gap was not always as stark as it is now and that it’s been worsening since the late 1970’s. Economists across the political spectrum also agree on the root causes: technology, globalization, and government policies. They just do not agree on the degree that these root causes impact economic inequality or even if economic inequality matters to the overall health of the economy. 

Economists do not deal with judgments or feelings but strictly with metrics and by comparing measurable terms. To understand the economic debates in the media about inequality and the income gap, it is key to make sure that economists are arguing about the same terms otherwise it is like comparing apples with oranges — useless. Now when I watch theses kinds of debates on television, I will be a better judge. My hope is that anyone who watches MONKEY BUSINESS aka ECONOMIC INEQUALITY will too."


It is described as “an unseen barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising the corporate ladder”. What is it?

  • 10% The Ball and Chain
  • 27% Education Inequality
  • 5% Gravity
  • 58% The Glass Ceiling
58% of respondents chose the correct answer: The Glass Ceiling.

The term was first introduced in 1979 at the National Press Club. It was coined as a metaphor to describe invisible barriers through which women and minorities can see elite positions but cannot reach them.

The US has significant income inequality, but in what country is most income growth greatest in the bottom 90%?

  • 24% Norway
  • 19% Canada
  • 40% Denmark
  • 17% Australia
40% of respondents chose the correct answer: Denmark.

In a recent study it was found that almost 90% of income growth in Denmark came from the bottom 90% of earners, where in the US nearly 50% of growth went to the top 1%.

The US may have income inequality, but we all live the same # of years. Where does the US rank?

  • 36% 42nd
  • 26% 10th
  • 13% 1st
  • 25% 30th
36% of respondents chose the correct answer: 42nd.

Sandwiched between Finland and Turks and Caicos, the average US citizen dies at the ripe old age of 79.56 years. Interestingly though, if you live in Chad, one of the poorest nation’s on earth on average you only reach 49.44 years. If you live in Monaco, one of the richest, expect to live to almost 90!

Did you know?

  • Half of the US population lives in poverty or is considered low income.

  • Income inequality in the U.S. is lowest in Maine, highest in Texas.

  • In the US, children working in tobacco fields have no maximum work week.

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