Inequality is emerging as a major source of contention internationally and domestically.

This article focuses first on the effects of inequality according to Richard Wilkinson, Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, cofounder of the Equality Trust and author of “The Spirit Level”.  Wilkinson Reveals the following revelations on inequality in a Ted Talk titled “How Economic Inequality Harms Societies”:

Through the “developed” nations, per capita income has no correlation with life expectancy.

Yet, within nations, income directly correlates with life expectancy. Wilkinson’s explanation for this relates to “social status” and “relative income”.

Inequality does correlate with negative health correlates determined by: Life expectancy, math and literacy, infant mortality, homicides, imprisonment, teenage births, trust, obesity, mental illness, and social mobility.

These have zero correlation across GNP per capita.

And Child well-being also a strong negative correlate with inequality.

Homicide rates, imprisonment,  within U.S. states also correlate with inequality.

He then points out that a healthy distribution can either happen through redistribution or through greater equality of income.  He finds that the health of the society benefits in both ways.

His last point was that even the most wealthy in an unequal society are less well off than the most wealthy in a more equal society.  Even if the income of the former subject is much greater than that of the latter.

While under our current model of individuals, we tend to see a rational individual and aim toward creating greater wealth for all, especially through introducing capital.  Well this may be similar to a dog chasing its tail. Of course, in reality humans are not purely rational and the social effects of inequality are quite stress producing.  Wilkinson finds that in less equal societies are greater fear of judgement, consumerism and status competition, as well as social threats to self-esteem.  They found that threats to self-esteem or social performance, in which others can negatively judgement your performance had the greatest effects on the physiology of stress. Wilkinson says that a great amount of research has gone in to showing the causality of the effects of social stress on the immune system, the cardiovascular system and other health indicators.

Wilkinson’s presentation shows a small sample of works done on inequality.  He points out that these themes are consistent across hundreds of peer-reviewed journal articles.

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