Wilkinson, R ~ How economic inequality harms societies

Wilkinson, Richard
How economic inequality harms societies

“You all know the truth of what I’m going to say. I think the intuition that inequality is divisive and socially corrosive has been around since before the French Revolution. What’s changed is we now can look at the evidence, we can compare societies, more and less equal societies, and see what inequality does.”

if you compare countries to each other, regarding ‘index of health and social problems’ in relation to their GDP, there’s no correlation:

But if you relate these problems to the inequality WITHIN each country, you find the following correlation:

The index of health and social problems combines:

  • life expectancy
  • math & literature (level of children?)
  • infant mortality
  • homicides
  • imprisonments
  • teenage births
  • trust
  • obesity
  • mental illness (incl. drug & alcohol addiction)
  • social mobility

The same applies to the the UNICEF index of child well-being with 40 different components like:

  • can kids talk to their parents
  • do they have books at home
  • what are immunization rates like
  • is there bullying at school

This is how unequal countries are:

The average well-being of our societies is not dependent any longer on national income and economic growth. That’s very important in poorer countries, but not in the rich developed world.”

income inequality related to mental illness:

related to violence:

related to population in prison:

“That relationship is not mainly driven by more crime. In some places, that’s part of it. But most of it is about more punitive sentencing, harsher sentencing. And the more unequal societies are more likely also to retain the death penalty.”

related to high school dropouts:

related to social mobility:

“if Americans want to live the American dream, they should go to Denmark.”

“what we’re looking at is general social disfunction related to inequality. It’s not just one or two things that go wrong, it’s most things.”

“it doesn’t much matter how you get your greater equality, as long as you get there somehow.”
-> in some countries, high taxes are the solution (Sweden), in others not (Japan).

it’s not just the poor who profit from equality:

in unequal societies, people care more about what others think of them:

What can be done:

“I think the take-home message though is that we can improve the real quality of human life by reducing the differences in incomes between us. Suddenly we have a handle on the psychosocial well-being of whole societies, and that’s exciting.

About the author

Woitek Konzal

Producer, Consultant, Lecturer & Researcher. I love working where technology meets media in novel ways. Once, I even won an Emmy for digital innovation doing that. Be it for a small but exciting campaign about underground electronic music collectives or for a monster project combining two movies, various 360° videos, 72 ARG-like mini puzzles, and a Unity game, all wrapped up in one cross-platform app – I have proven my ability to adapt to what is required. This passion for novel technologies has regularly allowed me to cross paths with tech startups – an industry and philosophy I am all set to engage with more. I intensely enjoy balancing out my practical work with academic research, teaching, and consulting. Also, I have a PhD in Creative Industries, a M.Sc. in Business Administration, and love to kitesurf.

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